US and Pakistan Tango

It’s really simple. US wanted Russia gone from Afghanistan. Pakistan under General Zia with help of CIA was willing to set up a force to do so. Operation Cyclone was the code name for the United States CIA’s covert program to arm and finance the Jihadi warriors, mujahideen, in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.

US was awarded Pakistan’s support against the presence of the soviets in Afghanistan. A hefty amount of $3.2 billion was given for initial 6 years under two heads: military sales and economic assistance. The second 6-year package amounted to $4.2 billion. [1987–93] US spent roughly $20 billion to arm and train the Afghan groups resisting soviets. In start of 1986, US made stinger missiles were given to these resistance groups to be used against the soviets. As soviets withdrew, there were reports of weapons sent to be specifically used for Afghan resistance groups ending up in Karachi and sold in open market.

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Fast forward to the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, or the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, offering an amount of $7.5 billion in non-military sector to Pakistan. One important part of this aid was that Army was made more answerable, with better checks on funds used. The disbursement was based on harsh conditions. United States Secretary of State needed to release a yearly certification “under the direction of the President” before tranches were released.

The conditions were harsh, and most in Pakistan then thought that the very sovereignty of Pakistan had been violated. The very fact that only US will decide if or not Pakistan has met with the conditions, was considered arbitrary.

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The stances of both nations over the Kerry Lugar Bill actually highlights the very relationship between both. Pakistan, having a porous border with US, ended up having to face the brunt of the war in Afghanistan. US, paying for the war wanted conditions met agreed upon in KLB. Pakistan realized, once deep into the war, it had bitten more than what it could chew. The coming together of different insurgent groups that later moved into Pakistan; the porous border making it all too easy. In time, Pakistan was fighting a war within its borders. Terrorists attack in Pakistan became an almost daily affair with Pakistan ending up with over a million Afghan refugees.

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It became difficult for Pakistan to one hundred per cent follow the diktat of US, as after a given point and with diverging national interests, that caused a trust deficit with US. Pakistan on the other hand, faced the reality of its internal requirements and security.

In 2009, stories of US acquiring larger lands/properties in Islamabad with breaking of news of Blackwater in Pakistan, made it more difficult for its military to effectively go forward as strategic partners in face of huge outcry in Pakistan. A report by Guardian quotes a former US official, stating that the US contractor Blackwater is operating in Pakistan at a secret CIA airfield used for launching drone attacks. He also confirmed that Blackwater employees help to load laser-guided Hellfire missiles on to CIA-operated drones that target al-Qaida members suspected of hiding in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions, confirming information that surfaced in the US media in the summer. [11th Dec, 2009]

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The relationship between US and Pakistan is a long one. A turbulent one. However, in order to tango, both must understand that those days, both had places their interests converged, then there were places where the interests diverged. This is more difficult for US to understand as they gave good money for 100% compliance. Circumstances change. Requirements change. Time to move forward from that point towards a relationship that’s better balanced.

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The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: and tweets at @yasmeen_9

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