US, Pakistan beginning to look like enemies: Lodhi
ISLAMABAD YOU know a friendship has gone sour when you start making mean jokes about your friend in front of his most bitter nemesis.
So it was a bad sign this week when the US defence secretary joshed in front of an audience of Indians about how Washington kept Pakistan in the dark about the raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden a year ago.
“They didn’t know about our operation. That was the whole idea,” Leon Panetta said with a chuckle at a Q&A session after a speech in New Delhi, raising laughs from the audience. The Bin Laden raid by US commandos in a Pakistani town infuriated Islamabad because it had no advance notice, and it was seen by Pakistan’s powerful military as a humiliation.
The US and Pakistan are starting to look more like enemies than allies, threatening the US fight against Taliban and Al Qaeda militants based in the country and efforts to stabilise neighbouring Afghanistan before American troops withdraw.
Long plagued by frustration and mistrust, the relationship has plunged to its lowest level since the 9/11 attacks forced the countries into a tight but awkward embrace over a decade ago. The US has lost its patience with Pakistan and taken the gloves off to make its anger clear.
“It has taken on attributes and characteristics now of a near adversarial relationship, even though neither side wants it to be that way,” said Maleeha Lodhi, who was serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US at the time of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and was key in hurriedly putting together the two countries’ alliance.
The latest irritant is Pakistan’s refusal to end its six-month blockade of NATO troop supplies meant for Afghanistan.
Even if that issue is resolved, however, the relationship may be on an irreversible downward slide. The main source of US anger is Pakistan’s unwillingness to go after militants using its territory to launch attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.
On the Pakistani side, officials are fed up with Washington’s constant demands for more without addressing Islamabad’s concerns or sufficiently appreciating the country’s sacrifice.
Pakistan has lost thousands of troops fighting a domestic Taliban insurgency fueled partly by resentment of the alliance with the US.