Academic journal article Policy Review

Pakistan and America

Academic journal article Policy Review

Pakistan and America

Article excerpt

IN THE SUMMER of 2010, two revelations, of unequal importance and magnitude, illuminated the American Pakistani relationship and its complications: a public opinion survey released by the Pew Research Center, on July 29, that delved into the attitudes of the Pakistani public on a wide range of issues (their opinion of the United States, their view of the war next door in Afghanistan, their attitude toward extremist groups, their outlook on the prospects of their country). The bigger story was the unprecedented document-dump by Wikileaks of 92,000 reports and documents on the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan spanning two administrations, from January 2004 through December 2009. The role of Pakistan, and its powerful Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (the ISI), was in the eye of that storm.

The Pew survey first: There was something of a surprise in the findings. Some 2,000 adults, disproportionately urban, were polled. The needle had not moved; Pakistani opinion had not been swayed by the change in Washington from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. America's overall image, the survey found out, remained quite negative in Pakistan. Along with Turks and Egyptians, the Pakistanis gave the U.S. its lowest ratings among the 22 nations included in the Pew Global Attitudes survey. In all three big and important Muslim countries, only seventeen percent had a favorable view of the United States. Six in ten Pakistanis described the U.S. as an enemy, and only eleven percent described the U.S. as a partner. Against prior expectations, only eight percent of Pakistanis expressed confidence in President Obama and in his ability to do the right thing in world affairs; this was his lowest rating among the 22 nations. There was little support for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan; nearly two-thirds of those surveyed wanted U.S. and NATO troops out of Afghanistan. A mere 25 percent of Pakistanis thought that a Taliban victory in Afghanistan would be bad for Pakistan itself. Such is the material, and sentiments, within Pakistan that the Americans, and Pakistan's leaders, have to work with. Substantial American resources and aid have been committed to Pakistan, but 48 percent of those surveyed thought the U.S. gave little or no assistance. The anti-Americanism ran deep here, and was instinctive and unexamined.

The Wikileaks documents, released on July 25 to the New York Times, the Guardian, and to the German magazine Der Spiegel, unusual in their detail and sheer volume, depicted an American war in Afghanistan far grimmer than official Washington admitted, and a Taliban insurgency growing larger, better coordinated, and more deadly each year. Some $300 billion had been committed to the war, and still the prospects for success looked quite discouraging. The war archive was not flattering of Pakistan's intelligence services. The documents suggested that Pakistan, though a presumed ally of the United States and a recipient of substantial aid, allowed operatives of the powerful ISI to meet directly with the Taliban and to organize networks of militant groups that targeted American soldiers and Afghan officials alike.

Pakistan, in this archive, is both an enemy and an ally of American power, with its security services engaged in a deadly double game. A blind eye was being turned to the presence of the Taliban in Pakistan's tribal area, and Pakistan was keeping its options open for a post-American Afghanistan. Determined enemies of the United States--the Haqqani network, the notorious Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Mullah Omar's Quetta Shura--had steady contact, the documents asserted, with Pakistani intelligence. All through the archive's diaries and the memoranda there runs a deep suspicion of Pakistan's intentions.

Needless to say, the revelations about Pakistan trumped all other findings of the archive. They surely received the lion's share of the attention that greeted this big disclosure. Pakistan's leaders were quick to protest that the documents did not "reflect the current realities on the ground," for the Pakistani government had committed massive resources to the war, and had paid dearly for its effort in the fight against terrorism. …

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