United States and Pakistan Need to Reboot Relationship

Teresita C. Schaffer
Teresita C. Schaffer Former Brookings Expert, Senior Advisor - McLarty Associates

July 14, 2011

Pakistan and the United States have had a wild ride over the years — three marriages and two divorces. Events since the start of the year suggest that we may be headed for a third divorce.

The recent announcement that the United States is suspending about one-third of its military assistance is understandable at one level — but both the United States and Pakistan still need each other, and this is not the way to avoid a breakup.

Since January, the two governments have been trying to renegotiate their “rules of engagement,” the basic ground rules for how the two countries, and especially their intelligence services, deal with one another.

Pakistan’s policy is driven by the army’s anger at the humiliations it has suffered from the United States. As seen from Pakistan, there have been several, but the most important was the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The team of U.S. SEALs got into Abbottabad, within a mile of the Pakistani equivalent of West Point, picked up and killed its “high-value target,” and left without Pakistan’s knowing what was up, let alone being asked in advance.

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