By Teresa Welsh |
The sheer volume of negative media attention would lead any attentive reader to believe that Pakistan-U.S. relations are headed toward a severe, maybe violent, rupture.
Memory is short, but the U.S.-Pakistan alliance is nearly as old as Pakistan itself. Pakistan cast its lot as an ally during the long decades of the Cold War, and helped to push the Soviets occupiers out of Afghanistan during the 1990s.
More recently, Pakistan served as an invaluable partner following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. When I met with General Musharraf on September 13 as the U.S. ambassador, he reversed Pakistan's relationship with the Afghan Taliban that was harboring Al Qaeda, pledging "unstinting support" for the United States even though it risked popular and military opposition, and even his life. In the months that followed, Pakistan worked seamlessly with us the United States to apprehend terrorists and shut down Al Qaeda safe houses. Pakistan continues to hunt down Al Qaeda operatives to this day. And don't forget that the bulk of U.S. supplies to troops in Afghanistan crosses Pakistan by land and air.
For sure, our bilateral relations are aggravating. Pakistan milked the Ray Davis fiasco to incite anti-American sentiment; teases us with support for an Iranian gas pipeline; and, more damaging, clings to the notion that it must cultivate the Haqqani group as leverage in shaping Afghanistan's future.
But in the larger scheme, Pakistan is working with the United States in areas important to us. Most Pakistanis remain committed to democracy and reject the Taliban's harsh version of Islamist rule. Pakistan works with us to safeguard its approximately 90-110 nuclear warheads. Recently, Pakistan took an important step toward regional security by granting India Most Favored Nation status, and signing a historical cross-border trade agreement.
Bilateral cooperation goes both ways. Even if it wanted to, Pakistan is in no position to scuttle its alliance with the United States.
Despite its grandiose claims that China is an alternative to the United States, the hard truth is that Pakistan and the United States are stuck with each other. Only the United States was able to intervene with India in 2001 and again in 2002 to tamp down very real threats of nuclear confrontation. Only the United States had the clout in the international banks to rescue Pakistan from the financial crisis in 2008. And no other donor came remotely close to the generous humanitarian assistance provided by the United States during Pakistan's 2006 earthquake, and 2010 flood crisis.
This is a long-term alliance, one that works for both of us. The Obama administration's recent approach of clear, direct, and transparent clarification of expectations is a good formula for surviving the difficult period ahead of us.
About Wendy Chamberlin Former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan
Gerry Connolly U.S. Representative