In the days following the death of Al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, relations between the United States and Pakistan are showing signs of strain.
While the nations have pledged to work together in fighting the war on terror, questions about Pakistan’s sincerity and its ability in that effort. How Bin Laden, allegedly have been living in Pakistan for nearly five years, could have done so undetected by Pakistani intelligence has been a sticking point for both countries.
Arif Rafiq, president of US-based Vizier Consulting, a firm that provides guidance on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues says that frankly, Pakistan is embarrassed. “For them there is the fear that there are implications that they actively hid bin Laden and that would result in a global backlash. And a backlash from the United States, which is a provider of military and financial support to the Pakistani government. And then also there’s the issue of incompetence. The fact that they couldn’t locate the world’s most wanted man in close proximity to various military instillations suggests their intelligence is quite weak in their own capabilities.”
Pakistan, however, has admitted its shortcomings in capturing Osama bin Laden. Pakistani officials released a statement in which Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, made it clear that, “any similar action, violating the sovereignty of Pakistan, will warrant a review on the level of military and intelligence cooperation with the United States.
A statement that further complicates the relationship between the nations according to Arif Rafiq. “The US publicly, is really reluctant to criticize Pakistan because it feels that the current political and military leadership there are the least bad option. So they fear that if they put too much pressure on Pakistan publicly that could destabilize the government and result in a less competent and a nationalist or even radical elements could take over the government or the military.”
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton seemed optimistic as she explained that the US is committed to its partnership with Pakistan. “It is not always an easy relationship, you know that. But, on the other hand, it is a productive one for both of our countries, and we are going to continue to cooperate between our governments, our militaries, our law enforcement agencies — but most importantly, between the American and Pakistani people. Where we have made a commitment to help them meet their needs and trying to establish a firmer foundation for their democracy.”
While the US has been providing a great deal of intelligence gathering and manpower on the ground, Arif Rafiq says the fact is that they will absolutely need the assistance of Pakistan, especially when it comes to continuing to fight and capture terrorists in the region.
“Overall it points towards a US dependency on the current actors in Pakistan. And also the fact that the US needs Pakistan exit from Afghanistan due to Pakistan’s long border with Afghanistan and the human assets within the country after having significantly influenced the county for the past 30 years.”
Pakistan’s military has demanded that the US aggressively reduce its troops, and plan no further operations on the ground. A demand, Rafiq says that is likely to have slight chance of happening. “It’s likely that the US will reduce some of its intelligence presence, but the military presence is different because those trainers also come with hardware. Hardware that Pakistan needs. And US officials have told Pakistani forces that if you want our military forces to leave, we’ll also take that hardware.”
Pakistan's military has launched an investigation into bin Laden’s killing, while pointing out that Pakistani intelligence has captured and or killed more than 100 top al Qaeda operatives.