Pakistan and the US have been the closest allies during major world crises like Cold War, the Afghan War against the Soviet invasion in 1979, and the global War on Terror in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, but the bilateral relations between the two have always remained disparate. The relations between the two have been the closest at one time and almost the contrary at the other time.
This is because the Pak-US relations operated on crises and have never been built independently and bilaterally which bounds them to have certain expectations from each other and when states fall short to fulfill these expectations, they start to blame each other and the relations between them starts deteriorating.
The relationship between Pakistan and the US has often waxed and waned according to the situation in the region. Pakistan, which defeated the Soviet Union – the USSR, the arch-rival of the US in Afghanistan – faced US sanctions after the collapse of the USSR. Pakistan has allied with the US for achieving its security interests, but it has always acted towards the US as a friend, taking for granted the notion of International Relations that there are no permanent friends and foes in International Relations but only permanent interests.
The US has always been realistic in terms of its relations with Pakistan which led to a sense of betrayal by the former in Pakistan’s population and also the policymakers who wanted the US to be a permanent ally. The US imposed sanctions on Pakistan after the latter conducted successful tests of its nuclear weapon. This move resulted in bitter relations between the two, but the changing situation of the region after the 9/11 attacks led the two countries to come closer once again.
The US sanctions were removed and Pakistan once again joined the US in its War on Terror. This partnership continued for two decades. Pakistan faced solemn implications for being a part of the US’s War on Terror and paid a heavy price. Despite such sacrifices by Pakistan, the US is now using Pakistan as a scapegoat for its shameful flight in Afghanistan.
The current relations between the two countries have now deteriorated at an unprecedented level. Pakistan for the first time has joined an anti-US bloc and the US is also becoming closer to Pakistan’s arch-rival, India. A bill has also been moved in the US senate to sanction Pakistan for its alleged support to the Taliban against the US.
Although this bill is nothing more than a face-saving for the US, it also can be regarded as a tribute to Pakistan’s security establishment – if the United States’ allegations are assumed to be true, that it has defeated another superpower of the world despite meager resources and bad economic plight.
A Look at the History of Pak-US relations
The nascent state was economically weaker compared to its rival state. This led Pakistan to search for a strong patron who can assist the country to strengthen its security and can also help it economically. The US also needed an ally in the region to counter the threat of communism in South Asia. Thus, it had no other choice than Pakistan because of its geostrategic location and the nonalignment policy of India. These interests led both countries to come closer to each other.
The US provided considerable military support to Pakistan. The latter also joined the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954 and the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) in the following year, both led by the US. Pakistan assisted the US to counter Soviet expansionism in the 1950s and hence Pakistan received military assistance of $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion in that period.
It also got other forms of assistance in terms of agriculture commodities, technical assistance, and economic development grants worth nearly $3 billion between 1947 and 1965. The expectations and attitude of the Pakistani population and policymakers towards the US were of emotional attachment at that time as the people of the region gave immense importance to friends.
These expectations resulted in dismay during the war of 1965 when the US stepped away from helping Pakistan. Pakistan and the US signed an agreement of Defense for Bilateral Cooperation on 5th March 1959 in which the US agreed to cooperate with Pakistan to counter its security threats and to deal with its defense requirements but in the wake of the 1965 war, the US stepped back from this agreement by giving its own meanings to the articles of the very agreement, particularly that the US will help to counter the threat by a communist state only.
However, the threat of the spread of communism in the region forced the US to ameliorate its relations with Pakistan. Pakistan also helped in the rapprochement between China and the US by arranging a secret visit of Henry Kissinger to China in 1971, but in the same year when Pakistan had to face the disaster in its Eastern Wing, the US once again maintained silence against Indian involvement in the internal matter of Pakistan.
It was only because of Pakistan that the US-backed Mujahidin – now called terrorists by the US – succeeded in defeating the Soviet Union. The relationship of the two countries also deteriorated due to the ambition of Pakistan to develop nuclear arsenals to counter India. Hence, the US sanctioned Pakistan over its test of the nuclear bomb. This stuck as a hard blow to the economy of the country.
Once again, a major event took place in the world which involved some powers from the region. This was the attack of 9/11 and the US blamed that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was involved in this attack and once again it looked towards Pakistan to counter the Taliban. This led to a new transition in the relationship, but Pakistan has since then paid a heavy cost, corroborating the statement of Henry Kissinger, “It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal”.
The Cost of War on Terror for Pakistan
Pakistan is the most affected country by the War on Terror after Afghanistan. The loss of lives, economic weakness, terrorism, and a vehement refugee influx are what Pakistan gained from the US-led War on Terror. Pakistan has always advocated a peaceful resolution of the Afghan issue but the fervor of world powers was so high after the 9/11 incident that Pakistan was reluctant even to voice its opinion.
Pakistan had to comply with the UN resolution on the very issue. This resulted in severing the relations between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani government. Pakistan lost more than 70000 lives in the US-led War on Terror and had to face nearly 4000 terrorist attacks alone in the year 2013.
Economically, Pakistan faced losses of around $150 billion due to this war. The Afghan refugees also brought the evil of smuggling and drug trafficking into the country. The US-led War on Terror and Pakistan’s support to the US-backed Taliban against the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan had also spurred extremism and Kalashnikov culture in Pakistan. The alliance of Pakistan with the US in the War on Terror resulted in the rise of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which turned its guns towards the military and civilian population of Pakistan.
TTP conducted several suicide attacks on mosques, shrines, and markets accusing the Muslim population of Pakistan of being infidels. They also blamed Pakistan for assisting the US in committing war crimes in Afghanistan. These are some of the direct implications Pakistan has faced to date due to its involvement in the US-led War on Terror. Much to the chagrin of the US, it has failed to defeat the Taliban.
The former President of the US, Donald Trump, solicited assistance from the Prime Minister of Pakistan to coerce the Taliban to negotiate a peace deal with the US to provide face-saving and safe passage. Pakistan assisted the US to secure a peace deal with the Taliban, but after the safe but immature withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US establishment is facing criticism from the whole world and from its population as well.
Current Relations Between Pakistan and the US
Recently, a bill has been moved in the American senate to sanction all the allies of the Taliban. The bill also recommended to sanction Pakistan accusing the country of supporting the Taliban. Section 202 of the report accuses the Pakistan government of providing financial support, sanctuary space, intelligence support, logistics, and medical support, training, equipping, and tactical, operational, or strategic direction and also for assisting the Taliban for toppling the US-backed government in Afghanistan.
The report further blames the Pakistan government for assisting the Taliban in their offensive against the Panjshir Valley and Afghan resistance. All these baseless claims are rebuked by the Pakistan government. The country has pushed back all the false accusations and called the bill completely unwarranted.
Prime Minister Imran Khan recently stated that Pakistan surely could not be blamed as more than 300000 well-trained and well-equipped Afghan forces saw no reason to fight the lightly armed Taliban. The US is continuously blaming Pakistan for its failure in Afghanistan and is inclined to harm the country in any way possible.
Pakistan is in no condition to sustain any injury to its already fragile and stagnant economy. This bill has led to the fall of the Pakistani rupee to a record low and Pakistan’s stock has also plunged. If the country is sanctioned, it will no longer be able to gain loans from any international monetary institution including IMF.
The attitude of the US towards the Afghan Taliban regime and Pakistan is imprudent as it will leave the Afghan Taliban unchecked and they will have no reason to obey international norms. It will also weaken Pakistan financially which can result in the re-emergence of terrorist groups in the country. It will also ensue a new wave of hatred among the Pakistani population towards the US which could make the possibility of good relations in the future difficult.
One of the major reasons for the US’s bitter attitude towards Pakistan is its relations with China. The geostrategic location of Pakistan makes it a key player in the region which leads to the involvement of the country in the politics of the great powers of the world. Pakistan, on its part, should not ask for international recognition of the Taliban government if they refuse to comply with international human rights.
The US and all the other nations of the world must acknowledge the positive role played by Pakistan to counter the threat of terrorism in the world. Pakistan is the only country in the world that succeeded to defeat the Taliban, TTP, on its soil in operation Zarb-e-Azab which was conducted under the command of Lt. General Ishfaq Nadeem (Late).
If the allegations of the US are taken as being true for an instant, it proves the credibility and professionalism of Pakistan’s security establishment that it successfully defeated another world superpower in Afghanistan. It’s time for the US to accept its defeat in the Afghan theatre gracefully and to show the real picture to the world.
The population of the US holds the right to know why and how the US policymakers have spent their tax money down the drain. The US must realize that the plight of the Afghan people can only be ameliorated by taking the Taliban on board. The US has always conducted all its operations in Afghanistan under the veneer of assuring the human rights of Afghan citizens and women, so it must realize that sanctions on Afghanistan will further devastate the plight of Afghan citizens.
The weakening Taliban regime in Afghanistan will also help in the rise of terrorist organizations like ISIS which have global ambitions. So, it will be in the greater interest of all the nations of the world to take the Taliban onboard and develop interdependency to coerce the Taliban to comply with international norms.
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