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Pakistan-U.S. Relations: A Summary

by K. Alan Kronstadt, Specialist in South Asian Affairs

Summary

This report summarizes important recent developments in Pakistan and in Pakistan-U.S. relations. Obama Administration engagement with Pakistan has been seriously disrupted by recent events. A brief analysis of the current state of Pakistan-U.S. relations illuminates the main areas of contention and uncertainty. Vital U.S. interests related to links between Pakistan and indigenous American terrorism, Islamist militancy in Pakistan and Islamabad’s policies toward the Afghan insurgency, Pakistan’s relations with historic rival India, nuclear weapons proliferation and security, and the troubled status of Pakistan’s domestic setting are reviewed. Ongoing human rights concerns and U.S. foreign assistance programs for Pakistan are briefly summarized, and the report closes with an analysis of current U.S.-Pakistan relations.

In the post-9/11 period, assisting in the creation of a more stable, democratic, and prosperous Pakistan actively combating religious militancy has been among the most important U.S. foreign policy efforts. Global and South Asian regional terrorism, and a nearly decade-long effort to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan are viewed as top-tier concerns. Pakistan’s apparently accelerated nuclear weapons program and the long-standing dispute with India over Kashmir continue to threaten regional stability. Pakistan is identified as a base for numerous U.S.- designated terrorist groups and, by some accounts, most of the world’s jihadist terrorist plots have some connection to Pakistan-based elements.

While Obama Administration officials and most senior congressional leaders have continued to recognize Pakistan as a crucial partner in U.S.-led counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts, long-held doubts about Islamabad’s commitment to core U.S. interests have deepened considerably in 2011. Most independent analysts view the Pakistani military and intelligence services as too willing to distinguish among Islamist extremist groups, maintaining links to some as a means of forwarding Pakistani’s perceived security interests. Top U.S. officials have offered public expressions of acute concerns about Islamabad’s ongoing apparent tolerance of Afghan insurgent and anti-India militants operating from Pakistani territory. The May 2011 revelation that Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden had enjoyed apparently years-long and relatively comfortable refuge inside Pakistan led to intensive U.S. government scrutiny of the now deeply troubled bilateral relationship, and sparked much congressional questioning ….

Read more » Congressional Research Service (CRS)