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US and Pakistan: Frenemies Losing What's Left of Their Trust?

One of the more interesting details to come from the Snowden-leaked federal ‘black budget’ for 2013 is the extent to which Pakistan is now one of the biggest targets for US intelligence:

Pakistan appears at the top of charts listing critical U.S. intelligence gaps. It is named as a target of newly formed analytic cells. And fears about the security of its nuclear program are so pervasive that a budget section on containing the spread of illicit weapons divides the world into two categories: Pakistan and everybody else. […]

The United States has delivered nearly $26 billion in aid to Pakistan over the past 12 years, aimed at stabilizing the country and ensuring its cooperation in counterterrorism efforts. But with Osama bin Laden dead and al-Qaeda degraded, U.S. spy agencies appear to be shifting their attention to dangers that have emerged beyond the patch of Pakistani territory patrolled by CIA drones.

“If the Americans are expanding their surveillance capabilities, it can only mean one thing,” said Husain Haqqani, who until 2011 served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States. “The mistrust now exceeds the trust.”

This is a story that will be followed closely by elites in both Pakistan and India, and it suggests that the diplomatic picture in South Asia is continuing to evolve. US and Pakistan continue to have a lot of business to transact with each other, and both sides still see an advantage in close if not particularly cordial relations. This is going to be tricky.

To some degree, the more the US loses trust in Pakistan’s intentions (its support for terrorism, its pro-Taliban agenda in Afghanistan, its record of nuclear proliferation) and Pakistan’s capabilities (to stop the ongoing disintegration of its internal governance and security picture, to get its economy going, to maintain secure central command and control over the nuclear arsenal) the more closely the US wants to keep an eye on internal Pakistani developments. Since the most effective ways to do this involve maintaining an in-country presence, cultivating close ties with the military and other authorities, and maintaining some limited leverage over Pakistani decision-making, the case for US aid paradoxically grows stronger as levels of trust between the two countries decline.

It’s not clear how sustainable this is in either country. For now, it continues, but this is surely one of the more dysfunctional relationships in international politics.

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  • Fat_Man

    If we have trusted Pakistan, we did so foolishly. It is now abundantly apparent that it is they who are our real enemy in Afghanistan.

    We should remove all potential American hostages from Afghanistan — soldiers, diplomats, aid workers, etc. Then we should bomb the Pakistani military to destroy the toys we so foolishly gave to them, and any other capabilities they might have. We should then toss the keys to India and leave Pakistan to its fate, which is complete collapse and take over by India.

  • lukelea

    Boy, do I hope my hunch is right and Pakistan doesn’t actually possess nuclear weapons!

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