Pakistan–United States relations

Pakistan–United States relations
Pakistan-United States relations
Map indicating locations of Pakistan and United States


United States

Pakistan – United States relations refers to bilateral relationship between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the United States of America. The United States established diplomatic relations with Pakistan on 20 October 1947. The relationship since then was based primarily on U.S. economic and military assistance to Pakistan.[1] Pakistan is a Major non-NATO ally of the United States. The history of Pakistan–American relations has been defined as one of "Roller Coaster".[2] The United States is the second-largest supplier of military equipment to Pakistan after China and largest economic aid contributor as well.[3][4][5]


Military Pacts and Suspension of Aid

Baghdad Pact

Pakistan was a member of the Baghdad Pact from its adoption in 1955, until the pact's dissolution in 1979. The promise of economic aid from the U.S. was instrumental in creating the agreement. At the time the pact was adopted, Pakistan's relationship with the United States was so friendly that it was called the United States' "most-allied ally" in Asia.[citation needed]

During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the U.S. choose not to provide Pakistan with military support as pledged in the 1959 Agreement of Cooperation. This generated a widespread feeling in Pakistan that the United States was no longer a reliable ally.[citation needed]

Foreign Assistance Act

In April of 1979 the United States suspended all economic assistance to Pakistan (with the exception of food assistance, as required by the 1977 Symington Amendment to the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961) over concerns about Pakistan's nuclear program.[6] The U.S. Foreign Assistance Act states that the U.S. will not provide assistance to nations whose governments significantly violate human rights.

Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 highlighted the common interest of Pakistan and the United States in peace and stability in South Asia. In 1981, Pakistan and the United States agreed on a $3.2 billion military and economic assistance program aimed at helping Pakistan deal with the heightened threat to security in the region and its economic development needs. With U.S. assistance – in the largest covert operation in history – Pakistan armed and supplied anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan, eventually defeating the Soviets, who withdrew in 1988.[citation needed]

Nuclear weapons

Recognizing national security concerns and accepting Pakistan's assurances that it did not intend to construct a nuclear weapon, Congress waived restrictions (Symington Amendment) on military assistance to Pakistan. In March 1986, the two countries agreed on a second multi-year (FY 1988–93) $4-billion economic development and security assistance program. On October 1, 1990, however, the United States suspended all military assistance and new economic aid to Pakistan under the Pressler Amendment, which required that the President certify annually that Pakistan "does not possess a nuclear explosive device."

India's decision to conduct nuclear tests in May 1998 and Pakistan's matching response set back U.S. relations in the region, which had seen renewed U.S. Government interest during the second Clinton Administration. A presidential visit scheduled for the first quarter of 1998 was postponed and, under the Glenn Amendment, sanctions restricted the provision of credits, military sales, economic assistance, and loans to the government. An intensive dialogue on nuclear nonproliferation and security issues between Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad and Deputy Secretary Talbott was initiated, with discussions focusing on CTBT signature and ratification, FMCT negotiations, export controls, and a nuclear restraint regime.[citation needed] The October 1999 overthrow of the democratically elected Sharif government triggered an additional layer of sanctions under Section 508 of the Foreign Appropriations Act which include restrictions on foreign military financing and economic assistance. U.S. Government assistance to Pakistan was limited mainly to refugee and counter-narcotics assistance.[citation needed]

Alliance with U.S.

Prior to the September 11 attacks in 2001, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were key supporters of the Taliban in Afghanistan, as part of their "strategic depth" objective vis-a-vis India, Iran, and Russia.[citation needed]

After 9/11, Pakistan, led by General Pervez Musharraf, reversed course as they were under pressure from the United States and joined the "War on Terror" as a U.S. ally. Having failed to convince the Taliban to hand over bin Laden and other members of Al Qaeda, Pakistan provided the U.S. a number of military airports and bases for its attack on Afghanistan, along with other logistical support.[citation needed] Since 2001, Pakistan has arrested over five hundred Al-Qaeda members and handed them over to the United States; senior U.S. officers have been lavish in their praise of Pakistani efforts in public while expressing their concern that not enough was being done in private. However, General Musharraf was strongly supported by the Bush administration.[citation needed]

In return for their support, Pakistan had sanctions lifted and has received about $10 billion in U.S. aid since 2001, primarily military. In June 2004, President George W. Bush designated Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally,[7] making it eligible, among other things, to purchase advanced American military technology.

Pakistan has lost thousands of lives since joining the U.S. war on terror in the form of both soldiers and civilians, and is currently going through a critical period.[neutrality is disputed] Suicide bombs are now commonplace in Pakistan, whereas they were unheard of prior to 9/11.[citation needed] The Taliban have been resurgent in recent years in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been created internally in Pakistan, as they have been forced to flee their homes as a result of fighting between Pakistani forces and the Taliban in the regions bordering Afghanistan and further in Swat.[citation needed] In addition, the economy is in an extremely fragile position.[citation needed][weasel words]

A key campaign argument of U.S. President Barack Obama was that the U.S. had made the mistake of "putting all our eggs in one basket" in the form of General Musharraf.[citation needed] Musharraf was eventually forced out of office under the threat of impeachment, after years of political protests by lawyers, civilians and other political parties in Pakistan. With President Obama coming into office, the U.S. is expected to triple non-military aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion per year over 10 years, and to tie military aid to progress in the fight against militants. The purpose of the aid is to help strengthen the relatively new democratic government led by President Zardari and to help strengthen civil institutions and the general economy in Pakistan, and to put in place an aid program that is broader in scope than just supporting Pakistan's military.

Aid from the United States since 9/11

Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally as part of the War on Terrorism, and a leading recipient of U.S. aid.[8]

Post Independence: 1947–1952

Prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan meeting President Truman (during the 1950s when Pakistani Prime minister made a good will tour in the U.S.).[9]

After Pakistan's independence by the partitioning of the British India, Pakistan followed a pro-western policy. The Indian government followed a different, non-aligned policy stance, which leaned closer to the Soviet Union rather than the United States of America. Pakistan was seeking strong alliances to counter its neighbour, India. At this time, India was neutral and went on to be a part of Non Aligned Movement.

Ayub Khan era: 1952–1969

Pakistan joined the U.S. led military alliances SEATO and CENTO. In 1954 the United States signed a Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with Pakistan. Under Ayub Khan military era, Pakistan enjoyed a strong and healthy relationship with the United States. Pakistan had aligned itself with the United States during the Cold War, rather than with the Soviet Union. Khan's government also provided a secret military base to United States. In 1961, Khan paid a state visit to the United States, accompanied by his daughter Begum Nasir Akhtar Aurangzeb. Highlights of the trip included a state dinner at Mount Vernon, a visit to the Islamic Center of Washington, and a ticker tape parade in New York City.[10]

Partition of East Pakistan: 1969–1971

President Richard Nixon used Pakistan's relationship with China to start secret contacts with China which resulted with Henry Kissinger’s secret visit to China in July 1971 while visiting Pakistan. America supported Pakistan throughout the war and supplied weapons to West Pakistan although Congress had passed a bill suspending exporting weapons to the nation. Near the end of the war and fearing Pakistan's defeat by the joint forces of Mukti Bahini and Indian forces, Nixon ordered the USS Enterprise into the Indian Ocean, although it was never used for actual combat fearing Russian response.

Bhutto's socialist democratic era:1971-1977

However, the ties were severed after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto assumed the control of Pakistan.[11] In 1974, with India carried out the test of nuclear test near the Pakistan's eastern border, codename Smiling Buddha, Bhutto sought United States to impose economic sanctions in India.[11] Though it was unsuccessful approach, in a meeting of Pakistan's Ambassador to United States with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Kissingers told Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington that the test is “a fait accompli and that Pakistan would have to learn to live with it,” although he was aware this is a “little rough” on the Pakistanis.[11] In 1970s, the ties were further severed with Bhutto as Bhutto had continued to administer the research on weapons, and in 1976, in a meeting with Bhutto and Kissinger, Kissinger had told Bhutto, "that if you [Bhutto] do not cancel, modify or postpone the Reprocessing Plant Agreement, we will make a horrible example from you".[12] The meeting was ended by Bhutto as he had replied: For my country’s sake, for the sake of people of Pakistan, I did not succumb to that black-mailing and threats. Pakistan when under president ship of Bhutto carried successful nuclear test at Chaghi, America opposed the action and predicted that it will lead to a massive and destructive war between India and Pakistan in the future. Whereas the whole Muslim world was delighted and looking forward to Pakistan in order to pass nuclear technology to them. Bhutto called upon Al-Islamic Conference in order to bring Muslim nations together but after months America took the promised step and Bhutto was declared as the corrupted one, as a result the great leader was hanged in 1972. C[12]

Zia era: 1977–1988

In 1979, a group of Pakistani students burned the American embassy in Islamabad to the ground killing two Americans. After the removal and death of Bhutto, the Pakistan's ties with United States were better and improved. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, ISI and CIA ran multi-billion dollar worth Operation Cyclone to thwart the communist regime as well as defeating Soviets in Afghanistan. Throughout the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq, the ties and relations were promoted at its maximum point, and United States had given billion dollars of economical and military aid to Pakistan.

In the 1980s, Pakistan agreed to pay $658 million for 28 F-16 fighter jets from the United States; however the American congress froze the deal citing objections to Pakistani nuclear ambitions. Under the terms of the American cancellation, they kept both the money and the planes, leading to angry claims of theft by Pakistanis.[13]

Democratic governments: 1988–1998

The stage was set for a very tumultuous situation; the 1990s was an era of intense upheaval in Pakistan. Pakistan found itself in a state of extremely high insecurity as tensions mounted with India and Afghanistan’s infighting continued. Pakistan’s alliance with the U.S. was strained due to factors such as its support for the Taliban and public distancing of the Pakistani government from the U.S.

Post–September 11

President Musharraf with President Bush.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001 in the United States, Pakistan became a key ally in the war on terror with the United States. In 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush strongly encouraged Pakistan government to join the U.S. war on terror, as a result Pakistan joined the U.S. war. Pervez Musharraf acknowledges the payments received for captured terrorists in his book:

We've captured 689 and handed over 369 to the United States. We've earned bounties totaling millions of dollars
—Former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf

In 2003, the U.S. officially forgave US$1 billion in Pakistani debt in a ceremony in Pakistan as one of the rewards for Pakistan joining the U.S. war on terror. "Today's signing represents a promise kept and another milestone in our expanding partnership," U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell said in a statement, "The forgiveness of $1 billion in bilateral debt is just one piece of a multifaceted, multibillion dollar assistance package." The new relationship between the United States and Pakistan is not just about September 11,' Powell said. "It is about the rebirth of a long-term partnership between our two countries." However Pakistan support of the U.S. and its war has angered many Pakistanis that do not support it.

In October 2005, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a statement where she "promised ... that the United States will support the country's earthquake relief efforts and help it rebuild" after the Kashmir Earthquake.[14]

On 11 June 2008, a U.S. airstrike on the Afghan-Pakistani border killed 10 members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. The Pakistani military condemned the airstrike as an act of aggression, souring the relations between the two countries.[15] However after the drone attacks in June, President Bush had said 'Pakistan is strong ally '.[16] Western officials have claimed nearly 70%( roughly $3.4 billion) of the aid given to the Pakistani military has been misspent in 2002–2007. However U.S-Pakistani relationship has been a transactional based and U.S. military aid to Pakistan has been shrouded in secrecy for several years until recently.[17][18][19][20][21] Furthermore a significant proportion of U.S. economic aid for Pakistan has ended up back in the U.S., as funds are channeled through large U.S. contractors. A U.S. lawmaker also said a large sum of U.S. economic aid has not left the U.S. as it spent on consulting fees and overhead cost.[22][23]

In the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, the United States informed Pakistan that it expected full cooperation in the hunt for the plotters of the attacks.

United States-Pakistan skirmishes

The United States and Pakistan have experienced several military confrontations on the Durand Line. These skirmishes took place between American forces deployed in Afghanistan, and Pakistani troops guarding the border. These incidents ended and reportedly caused no casualties.

Meanwhile both the countries face many complexities in their spiky type of relations which is indicated also in official statements. Latest development is the statement of Admiral Mike Mullen who blamed that Pakistani spy agency ISI has links with Haqqani Network, a dangerous group belongs to Afghan Taliban.[24] [25]

Present relations

Present U.S.-Pakistan relations are a case study on the difficulties of diplomacy and policy making in a multi-polar world. The geopolitical significance of Pakistan in world affairs attracts attention from both India and China, making unilateral action impossible from the U.S. All the while, Pakistan remains a key factor for U.S. success in Afghanistan. The two countries have attempted to build a strategic partnership since 2009, but there remains a significant trust deficit which continues to hinder successful cooperation in combating common threats. Despite recent setbacks, both Pakistan and the U.S. continue to seek a productive relationship to defeat terrorist organizations.[26]

Clinton with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani during an October 2009 visit to Islamabad.

As on 8 February 2011, U.S. administration is reported to suspend high level contacts with Pakistan and may also suspend economical aid.[27] All this happened when Raymond Davis, an alleged private security contractor, was on an American diplomatic mission in Pakistan shot dead two Pakistani locals last month in what he said was in self-defense after they attempted to rob him. Pakistan acted tough on him despite U.S. demands that he be freed because he enjoys diplomatic immunity.[27]

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson addressed senior bureaucrats at the National Management College and emphasized that the United States will assist Pakistan’s new democratic government in the areas of development, stability, and security.[28] The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations World Food Program, in Pakistan, officially announced the signing of an agreement valued at $8.4 million to help ease Pakistan's crisis.[28]

The CIA had long suspected Osama Bin Laden of hiding in Pakistan.[29][30] India and U.S. have time to time accused Pakistan of giving safe-haven to the Taliban.[31] However, Pakistan has denied these accusations repeatedly.

On 14 September 2009, former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, admitted that U.S. Foreign Aid to Pakistan was diverted by the country from its original purpose to fighting the Taliban, to prepare for war against neighboring India.[32] The United States government has responded by stating that they will take these allegations seriously.[33] However Pervez Musharraf also said '"Wherever there is a threat to Pakistan, we will use it [equipment provided by the U.S.] there. If the threat comes from al-Qaeda or Taliban, it will be used there. If the threat comes from India, we will most surely use it there".[32]

In late 2009, Hillary Clinton made a speech in Pakistan about the war against the militants where she said "we commend the Pakistani military for their courageous fight, and we commit to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Pakistani people in your fight for peace and security."[34]

On December 1, 2009, President Barack Obama in a speech on a policy about Pakistan said "In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over.... The Pakistani people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed."[35]

In the aftermath of the thwarted bombing attempt on a Northwest Airlines flight, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued a new set of screening guidelines that includes pat-downs for passengers from countries of interest, which includes Pakistan.[36] In a sign of widening fissures between the two allies, Pakistan on January 21 declined a request by the United States to launch new offensives on militants in 2010.[37] Pakistan say it "can't launch any new offensives against militants for six months to a year because it wants to 'stabilize' previous gains made. However the U.S. praises Pakistan's military effort against the militants.[38] Furthermore Pakistan president, in meeting with the U.S. delegation, had said Pakistan "had suffered a... loss of over 35 billion dollars during the last eight years as a result of the fight against militancy." But the President also said for "greater Pak-U.S. cooperation".

In October 2009, the U.S. Congress approved $7.5 billion of non-military aid to Pakistan over the next five years. In February 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama sought to increase funds to Pakistan to "promote economic and political stability in strategically important regions where the United States has special security interests".[8] Obama also sought $3.1 billion aid for Pakistan to defeat Al Qaeda for 2010.[39]

In February 2010, Anne W. Patterson (U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan) said that the United States is committed to partnership with Pakistan and further said “Making this commitment to Pakistan while the U.S. is still recovering from the effects of the global recession reflects the strength of our vision. Yet we have made this commitment, because we see the success of Pakistan, its economy, its civil society and its democratic institutions as important for ourselves, for this region and for the world.”[35]

Between 2002–2010, Pakistan received approximately 18 billion[40] in military and economic aid from the United States. In February 2010, the Obama administration requested an additional 3 billion in aid, for a total of 20.7 billion.[41]

In mid February, after the capture of Taliban No.2 leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in Pakistan the White House 'hails capture of Taliban leader'. Furthemore White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that this is a "big success for our mutual efforts(Pakistan and United States)in the region" and He praised Pakistan for the capture, saying it is a sign of increased cooperation with the U.S. in the terror fight.[42] Furthermore Capt. John Kirby, spokesman for Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said 'We also strongly support Pakistani efforts to secure the border region,Kirby added, noting that Pakistan has lost soldiers in that effort.'Mullen, (President Barack Obama's senior military adviser)has made strengthening "U.S. military relationship with Pakistan a top priority". The U.S. and Pakistan have a robust working relationship that serves the mutual interests of our people,' Kirby said. "We continue to build a long-term partnership that strengthens our common security and prosperity."[43]

In March, Richard Holbrooke U.S. special envoy to Pakistan had said U.S.-Pakistani relations have seen 'significant improvement' under Obama. Furthermore he also said "No government on earth has received more high-level attention" than Pakistan[44][45]

In December 2009, President Obama stated "In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly, those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect and mutual trust." and stated that the two countries 'share a common enemy' in combating Islamic extremism.[46]

The Raymond Davis affair substantially deteriorated Pakistan-U.S. relations in early 2011.[citation needed][neutrality is disputed] The attack on U.S. Embassy and at NATO headquarters in Kabul was blamed on the Haqqani network operating under Pakistan's spy agency, the ISI.[47] Pakistan reacted by recalling its finance minister who was on a visit to the U.N.[48] Pakistan also tried to strengthen the relationship with China and Saudi Arabia to counter the U.S threat.[49] The Chinese government advised Pakistan against any such commitment that may put China's relationship with U.S and India in jeopardy.[50] U.S reissued the warning urging Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network or the U.S will take on the threat unilaterally.[51] Islamic groups in Pakistan, issued a fatwa proclaiming Jihad against the U.S and claimed that U.S should not be called a Superpower since the title belonged to Allah.[52] This was followed by Pakistan threatening the U.S with retaliation, if the U.S went ahead with unilateral action against the Haqqani network.[53]

Death of Osama bin Laden

Diagram of Osama bin Laden's hideout, showing the high concrete walls that surround the compound

Osama bin Laden, then head of the militant group al-Qaeda, was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, shortly after 1 a.m. local time[54][55] by a United States special forces military unit. The operation, code-named Operation Neptune Spear, was ordered by United States President Barack Obama and carried out in a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operation by a team of United States Navy SEALs from the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (also known as DEVGRU or informally by its former name, SEAL Team Six) of the Joint Special Operations Command, with support from CIA operatives on the ground.[56][57] The raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was launched from Afghanistan.[58] After the raid, U.S. forces took bin Laden's body to Afghanistan for identification, then buried it at sea within 24 hours of his death.[59]

Al-Qaeda confirmed the death on May 6 with posts made on militant websites, vowing to avenge the killing.[60] Bin Laden's killing was generally favorably received by U.S. public opinion;[61][62] was welcomed by the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, and a large number of governments;[63] but was condemned by some, including Fidel Castro of Cuba[64] and Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas administration of the Gaza Strip.[65] Legal and ethical aspects of the killing, such as his not being taken alive despite being unarmed, were questioned by others, including Amnesty International.[66]

According to Obama administration officials, U.S. officials did not share information about the raid with the government of Pakistan until it was over.[59][67] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen called Pakistan's army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at about 3 a.m. local time to inform him of the Abbottabad Operation.[68]

According to the Pakistani foreign ministry, the operation was conducted entirely by the U.S. forces.[69] Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officials said they were also present at what they called a joint operation;[70] President Asif Ali Zardari flatly denied this.[71] Pakistan's foreign secretary Salman Bashir later confirmed that Pakistani military had scrambled F-16s after they became aware of the attack but that they reached the compound after American helicopters had left.[72]

Allegations against Pakistan

Numerous allegations were made that the government of Pakistan had shielded bin Laden.[70][73][74] Critics cited the very close proximity of bin Laden's heavily fortified compound to the Pakistan Military Academy, that the U.S. chose to not notify Pakistani authorities before the operation, and the double standards of Pakistan regarding the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.[74][75][76] U.S. government files, leaked by Wikileaks, disclosed that American diplomats had been told that Pakistani security services were tipping off bin Laden every time U.S. forces approached. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), also helped smuggle al-Qaeda militants into Afghanistan to fight NATO troops. According to the leaked files, in December 2009, the government of Tajikistan had also told U.S. officials that many in Pakistan were aware of bin Laden's whereabouts. [77]

CIA chief Leon Panetta said the CIA had ruled out involving Pakistan in the operation, because it feared that "any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission. They might alert the targets."[78] However, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stated that "cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound in which he was hiding".[79] Obama echoed her sentiments.[80] John O. Brennan, Obama's chief counterterrorism advisor, said that it was inconceivable that bin Laden did not have support from within Pakistan. He further stated: "People have been referring to this as hiding in plain sight. We are looking at how he was able to hide out there for so long." [81]

Military aid from the United States

Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally as part of the War on Terrorism. A leading recipient of U.S. military aid, Pakistan will expect to receive approximately $20 billion since 2001.

See also


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