US needs to ‘divorce’ Islamabad

US needs to ‘divorce’ Islamabad

US needs to ‘divorce’ Islamabad

US Secretary of State Hillary Cinton (L) and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khar take their seats for a core group ministerial meeting at a hotel in Tokyo in this July photo. AFP photo

The United States and Pakistan should stop pretending they are allies and amicably “divorce,” Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington has said, citing unrealistic expectations on both sides, including U.S. hopes that Islamabad will sever its links to extremists.

“If in 65 years you haven’t been able to find sufficient common ground to live together, and you have had three separations and four reaffirmations of marriage, then maybe the better way is to find friendship outside of the marital bond,” Husain Haqqani said on Aug. 22, addressing the Center for the National Interest, a Washington think tank. Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target militant groups, including Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani, with which it has strong historical ties and that could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw. Washington frequently accuses Islamabad of providing safe havens for militants. Haqqani’s recommendation that the U.S. and Pakistan essentially downgrade their status was based on the premise that it may be the only way to break out of what has been a dysfunctional relationship. He cited a survey by the Pew Research Center released in June showing that roughly three-in-four Pakistanis consider the U.S. an enemy, even though the U.S. pours billions of dollars of aid into the country. “If this was an election campaign ... you would advise the senator with this kind of favorability ratings to pull out of the race, instead of spending more money,” Reuters quoted Haqqani as saying. His candid remarks represented Haqqani’s first address in Washington since he resigned as Pakistan’s envoy last year after, he said, being framed for drafting a memo that accused the Pakistani army of plotting a coup, allegations he defended himself against before Pakistan’s Supreme Court.

The depths of the strain in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship have come into full public view since the U.S., without telling Pakistan, secretly staged a raid to kill Osama bin Laden last year. Haqqani was ambassador at the time. He repeatedly said someone in Pakistan knew of bin Laden’s presence, even though he stopped far short of blaming Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

New bin Laden book
Meanwhile, a member of the U.S. Navy SEAL team that killed bin Laden has written a firsthand account of the operation, triggering more questions about the possible public release of classified information involving the historic assault. U.S. military officials said they do not believe the book has been read or cleared by the Defense Department. The book is titled “No Easy Day,” is scheduled to be released Sept. 11, and comes amid a heated debate over whether members of the military, both active duty and retired, should engage in political battles.