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Will the US Continue Supporting Pakistan after the closure of Afghanistan Supply Lines?
US Pakistani Diplomatic Relationships
US-Pakistan relations are strained and bilateral meetings are cancelled at the NATO Summit
For some people in the US political circles, Pakistan is a disloyal partner. Others suspected it of shielding Osama Bin Laden despite receiving millions of dollars in funding from the US government, ostensibly to fight against terrorism. The politics of this country are fluid and dangerous. It is no Iran but has the ability to seriously destabilize the region if the West does not engage with it.
Recently President Barack Obama refused to attend bilateral meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari. The President of Pakistan had demanded this meeting prior to opening up the roads to Afghanistan. Any whiff of compromise on the part of Obama is going to be ruthlessly exploited by the hacks who dominate USA political discourse. It is a tightrope which must be played diplomatically.
What is wrong with the Pakistan foreign policy?
The truth of the matter is that political and military control in Pakistan is anything but centralized. The president is perceived to be largely ineffective and inconsistent. The US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has been attempting to soothe relationships and actually met Zardari at the NATO Summit. The snub by Obama is pointed given the fact that most foreign leaders are constantly jostling for a meeting with him.
US foreign policy is now set on implementing an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan. It has always been made clear that the Post-Bush era would increasingly rely on regional powers to implement certain aspects of American foreign policy. The lack of cooperation on the part of Pakistan could be catastrophic especially as US Presidential Election politics heat up. Obama does not have a lot of room to wiggle.
Some might argue that Pakistan suffers from delusions of grandeur but the reality is that it is a critical partner if the USA is going to withdraw from its largely disastrous interference in Middle Eastern conflicts. The supply routes to Afghanistan are being used as pawn and Zardari knows that he can afford to play the prima donna, at least for a while. Pakistan closed the routes following a US air strike which killed 24 Pakistani troops.
The incident in November 2011 threatens to undermine the alliance. For his part Obama refused to meet his counterpart because there was no deal yet on opening up the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to US transport. The Pakistani government is demanding certain concessions before they open up the supply routes. Many of them are pragmatic and therefore it serves no purpose to ignore them completely.
What does Pakistan want?
It has been indicated that the Pakistani government would like a review of US drone policy. They are particularly concerned about the continued attacks on targets within their territory which seem to undermine the stability and competence of the government. A public apology for the attack in November has been demanded but that is highly unlikely given the fact that Obama does not want to appear to be conceding to an inferior power.
At the end of the day, the US government wishes to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014. However they will retain some armed presence for about a decade. This is a case of saving face after a war that cannot and will not be won. The demands by Pakistan are not just related to the security of the country and its territorial integrity. Commerce has been mentioned a few times as a case in point.
The Zardari government wishes to increase the tariff for passage by 50% from $250 to $500 per car.  This muddies the water somewhat. Does Pakistan want security or money or both? The Americans are losing patience with an alliance that always brings trouble and very few benefits. The recession means that there is less money to spend on foreign aid.
The foundations of a peaceful region
It is blatantly clear that America is not prepared to stay in the Middle East on a long term basis. The drone attacks are just an indicator of the fighting techniques that are going to be used for the future. Ideally no US servicemen will lose their lives fighting a war in the troubled region. That is why regional powers such as Pakistan are being encouraged to take a lead role.
Presidential politics in the USA mean that the lack of popular support for the war in Afghanistan is going to get attention. Pakistan is playing a very dangerous game. Without US military and financial aid, the Taliban will move in. It is entirely possible that Pakistan could become another Afghanistan where chaotic situations give rise to effective terrorist movements.
- E. MacAskill,” NATO summit: US-Pakistan rift widens over supply lines into Afghanistan”, 21st May 2012, Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/21/nato-us-pakistan-supply-lines