The transactional U.S.-Pakistan alliance means that, once the Afghan War ends, so will their incentive to get along.
By: Joshua Foust
This transactional nature is reflected in the last ten years of U.S.-Pakistan relations. Washington was never eager to partner with Islamabad — documents recently declassified by George Washington University’s National Security Archive show the anger and mistrust that drove initial U.S. demands for Pakistani compliance with the war in Afghanistan. As the Center for Global Development shows, the vast majority of U.S. aid to Pakistan after 2001 has been for its military, for the specific purpose of developing their capacity to go after militants. Yet the White House, through two administrations, has become less and less enthusiastic about the partnership as Pakistan’s contradictory, self-destructive relationship with the militants in its territory became harder and harder to ignore.
U.S.-Pakistan relations seem on course for conflict the moment the U.S. no longer needs Pakistani GLOCs for Afghanistan. What shape that conflict takes remains to be seen. The U.S. can construct a strong case for describing Pakistan as a rogue state: it harbors and supports international terrorism; it is one of the world’s most brazen proliferators of nuclear and ballistic missile technology; and it seems so stubbornly unwilling to admit fault that U.S. officials say they can barely raise either subject with their Pakistani counterparts.
Without the war in Afghanistan to draw the two countries together, it’s difficult to see how they can maintain anything more than a distant, perfunctory relationship. Pakistani officials insist privately that they love America. Yet that professed love has not translated into very many pro-American policies. If that doesn’t change, the U.S. and Pakistan seem destined to part ways 18 months from now. What happens after that, no one can say.
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