Punishing Pakistan may punish the U.S. too


Los Angeles Times

The decision to suspend $800 million in military aid is understandable, but the move could end up increasing anti-Americanism in Pakistan and complicating joint efforts to fight terrorism.


White House Chief of Staff William Daley said that Pakistanis “have taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid which we were giving to their military.” (Charles Dharapak / AP Photo)

A decision by the United States to suspend $800 million in military aid to Pakistan is both understandable and regrettable. Understandable because this country clearly feels the need to respond to provocations unworthy of an ally, but regrettable because the suspension could have the effect of increasing anti-Americanism in Pakistan and complicating joint efforts to fight terrorism.

In discussing the cutoff, White House Chief of Staff William Daley said that Pakistanis “have taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid which we were giving to their military.” For the record, the chief irritant was the expulsion by Pakistan of several dozen special operations trainers (in retaliation for the killing of two men by a CIA contractor). Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also suggested recently that the government had murdered a journalist. And many U.S. officials believe that Pakistani security and intelligence services pay lip service to their alliance with the United States but also tolerate – and in some cases support or shelter – militant groups.

These are serious charges, and if they’re all true, it’s no wonder the U.S. is frustrated. But at the same time, Washington should not allow the relationship with this crucial ally to deteriorate even further. As long as the war in Afghanistan continues, the U.S. needs to move weapons and troops through Pakistan, and it needs useful intelligence about militant groups.

The criticisms from the United States have aggravated the anger in Pakistan, particularly in the military, over the killing of Osama bin Laden in an operation that was conducted without the knowledge of Pakistani officials. The suggestion that it could not be trusted to keep a secret outraged the military, as did the fact that U.S. commandos stormed Bin Laden’s hideout without permission.

We worry that the cutoff in aid was based less on a calculation of its effect on Pakistan than on the desire to publicly protest the country’s truculence, partly in an effort to mollify congressional critics. Ideally, the suspension of aid will be short-lived while the relationship is mended. Pakistan can and should assist in that process, rather than falling back into the rote anti-Americanism and obstructionism that led to the Obama administration’s decision to suspend aid in the first place.

In confirming the suspension, Daley called the U.S.-Pakistani relationship “complicated.” That’s an understatement. We hope that the decision to suspend aid won’t complicate it further.

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