I’ve been in Washington for 15 years, and I’ve never seen such high levels of hostility directed toward Pakistan.

I don’t attribute this sentiment solely to the steady stream of incidents that have angered America. Tension points have been present for decades; the Shakil Afridi incident and the refusal to reopen Nato supply lines are simply the latest incarnations.

That said, one cannot overstate the extent of US government anger about the Pakistan-based Haqqani network’s repeated attacks on American troops and interests in Afghanistan. I recently attended a private meeting involving high-level US government officials, and the group’s assault on the US embassy in Kabul last September was cited as a chief reason for Washington’s unhappiness.

This anger is a bit easier to understand in light of recent revelations that a June 1 attack on a US military facility in Khost Province (carried out by the Haqqani network, in Washington’s view) was much more serious than originally reported. Initially described as a US-casualty-free incident, the operation in fact involved a truck bombing, two American and five Afghan deaths, and dozens of wounded troops.

Beyond all this, however, a larger force is at play — what political scientists refer to as a paradigm shift. In recent days, two noted Washington Pakistan-watchers have published commentaries in prominent outlets that suggest the relationship is doomed. In a Washington Post op-ed, the Stimson Center’s Michael Krepon asserted that “more Pakistanis and Americans are reaching the same conclusion: that it is not worth the effort, money or subterfuge required to patch up relations.” Meanwhile, Shamila Chaudhary, formerly a National Security Council staffer and top aide to Hillary Clinton, wrote in a Foreign Policy piece (entitled “The Patience Runs Out”) that up to now, “we’ve all just put up” with Pakistan’s “outdated and destabilising Afghanistan policy” because “it’s been taken as gospel that the United States needs Pakistan. That truism, at last, is no longer true.”

Such conclusions come on the heels of Leon Panetta’s recent trip to India, where he openly advocated for India to play a larger role in Afghanistan — for years, a suggestion US officials wouldn’t dared have made publicly for fear of offending Pakistan. Instances like these prompt Chaudhary (one of the savviest Pakistan analysts in town) to conclude that Washington is “actively looking to replace Pakistan.”

If one steps back and places this all in the proper strategic context, Washington’s behavior starts to make sense. The Obama administration has announced its intention to pursue an “Asia pivot,” which involves intensifying engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific. In recent days, President Obama met with the president of the Philippines; Clinton hosted officials from Cambodia, Thailand, and South Korea; and Panetta travelled to Singapore, Vietnam, and, of course, India. While rarely stated explicitly, a chief motivation for this policy shift is to counter the rise of China, one of Pakistan’s closest allies. Washington, of course, views India as a counterweight to China’s rise.

Yet one need not resort to grand strategy to understand what’s afoot. Given America’s domestic troubles during this election season, it’s simply not politically expedient for Washington to be advocating for a long-term, aid-driven relationship with Pakistan.

Take the case of Reading, Pennsylvania. Last week, I travelled to this city — a three-hour drive from Washington — to give a talk to the local chapter of the World Affairs Council. In its heyday, Reading prospered from coal and steel production. Today, it has the nation’s largest share of residents living in poverty. The city has residents interested in foreign affairs (about 75 of them attended my presentation), but with a poverty rate of 41 per cent, there’s much more concern about struggles closer to home. Pakistan rarely registers on radars, except in dismissive ways (“That’s a pretty crazy country, isn’t it?” a waitress said to me a ta local restaurant).

This is not the ideal venue to make an impassioned appeal for, say, continued US economic assistance to Pakistan.

Thankfully, Washington is not giving up completely on the bilateral relationship. Behind the scenes, policymakers and think tanks are feverishly exploring how to get the relationship back on track. Increasingly, Americans are grudgingly acknowledging this will have to be done knowing that Pakistan will not help attain many key US interests (including the elimination of the Haqqani network’s Pakistan-based sanctuary).

Still, these efforts will not get any easier with the dismissal of Pakistan’s prime minister earlier this week, and the general outlook remains gloomy. There’s a saying heard often around these parts: Pakistan and the United States have a failing marriage, yet they insist on keeping the relationship together for the sake of their child, Afghanistan.

Alas, the situation now appears so grave that the two sides may be prepared to act against the best interests of their child — and, perhaps, of each other.

The author is the program associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. You can reach him at michael.kugelman@wilsoncenter.org and follow him on Twitter: @michaelkugelman

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Michael Kugelman is the senior program associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC.

He can be reached at michael.kugelman@wilsoncenter.org or on Twitter @MichaelKugelman.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (56) Closed

Mohammad Ali Khan
Jun 23, 2012 03:15pm
Pakistanis need to transform their culture.Give priority to merit,honesty and hard work, and reject tribalism,religious fanaticism and corruption.
Jun 22, 2012 10:57am
Mr. B.O should have met Zardari at the summit... they just dont get it...do they.
Jun 24, 2012 10:06am
Pakistan lost her sons in Salala.How difficult it was to say sorry for that loss, in friendship or relations. Its not about people of USA about the attitude of their administration.
Abdullah Hussain
Jun 22, 2012 06:43pm
A single sided article from American perspective. Pakistan was dragged into war & uncertainty. Some of the bloggers have put a bad patch on Pakistan for obvious reason. Pakistan is the only country that suffered internally & externally courtesy "War on Terror" " You are with us or you are against us. Drone attacks, Dr. Afia Siddiqui, Raymond Davis, Dr. Afridi's espionage, Salala check post killing are a fraction of the irritants that was bestowed on Pakistan. In my opinion some of the main reason for the deterioration of Pakistan - US relationship are Off again & On again attitude of the US administration followed by some un- called for comments by US officials against Pakistan. US refusal to apologize to Pakistan for the cold blooded killings of our army personnel’s & continued drone attacks killing innocent peoples. The sooner the US understands Pakistan's problems the better it will be. As for the refusal to open the NATO supply lines it is an obvious reaction & should be appreciated.
Jun 24, 2012 03:32pm
I noticed that too. Who would that be? your guess is as good as mine :)
Jun 22, 2012 05:41pm
Although I admire Mr. Kugleman's satirical columns, this one would have to be close to the bottom of the heap. He keeps talking about America's anger at this, America's anger at that! Hey listen...Pakistanis are much more frustrated than this....its just that its slave and puppet leadership doesn't reflect those emotions! It takes two to tango....when an American guy is allowed to kill two people in Pakistan and let go (courtesy Pak leadership), military checkposts are attacked repeatedly and no apology or serious investigation into those incidents are offerred, when it basically never addresses Pak strategic concerns in the long run, there can only be a failed marriage...and may be a divorce which may be a better option for the child too!!
amir rasheed
Jun 22, 2012 10:10pm
the situation is not that gloomy.
Jun 22, 2012 07:11pm
If you are updated as of now,it is a country with Prime minister indeed. Good luck
shaukat ali chughtai
Jun 23, 2012 04:03pm
I had been working for US AID for thirty years in the field of economic development and I know what US Government's contributions in agriculture, rural development, population planning, etc. Before US Government policy initiatives are revisited, it is a must to comprehend how the people of Pakistan were made anti american. Sociologists, anthropolgists, economists and econonomists must study the causes. Please be reminded that when U.S. Government employees worked for US AID the relationship was cordial and every american was respected in every government department, as soon as crop U.S. Government contractors started playing their roles as development practioners, the whole scenario changed. U.S. Government must look into this and revisit. Afghan refugees which remained in Pakistan for all these years, and took command of all transport business, petroleum products and businesses caused lot of issues. The afghanis who settled in different parts of Pakistan.....and what did they do.... how the madrassahs were established, who funded them, how the mindset changed and so many issues.
Jun 24, 2012 10:48am
Soon after 9/11world knows what President Bush said to pakistan."either you are with us or against us" Musharaff saw this as an opportunity and exploied the situation to the maximum.At last this is what happened. Pakistan double crossed US in the war on terror.
Kashif Rizwan
Jun 24, 2012 06:49am
Michael, Here is an interesting fact. Even though Pakistan dramatically changed its policy after 911, and I remember at that moment ....experts on major channels like CNN, Fox repeatedly gave analysis that with Pakistan's help we can do anything & everything....Now after 11 years we are again complaining that relations are at the lowest level...... what went wrong? Whether Washington was not able to deal with Pakistan, or its policy was completely focused around Musharraf, or whether washington's policy is completely India centric. That is something that US ned to re-evaluate.. Relations are dictated by the interest of countries At times, it seems that even though US is spending billions of dollars in Afghanistan, every week there is atleast one more casualty......still I personally feel at times that Washington is not that serious about Afghanistan.... But then again when dealing with Pakistanis..using Indian card would always be counter productive. Relations between US and Pakistan are like a Roller coaster.. May be another liking of Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush could change the history.
Cyrus Howell
Jun 22, 2012 02:40pm
All the gripes about America are legitimate, but "allowing India a strong foothold into Afghanistan"? Someone has to put in the work.
Jun 25, 2012 03:04am
Pakistan shd learn to create a peaceful and friendly atmosphere for it's neighbours and the rest of the world. As long as it tries to play double roles( by exporting terror as a policy ) , it will pay the price. so let's wake up pakistanis, be good and respectful to others , if you expect the same.
Waqas Ahmed
Jun 27, 2012 09:02am
Para 9, last sentence......At a local resturant (spaced incorrectly ?) or is it my own browser....
Bhaskar Sur
Jun 29, 2012 01:01pm
Since its inception Pakistan (read its ruling elite) has been staunchly pro-American.It has always relied on the Western Block for technologyt,economic or military assistance and above all,to put India under pressure.When Pakistanis revile America,they ought to remember that it was only for America that Pakstantan went scot free even after committing one of the worst genocides in Bangladesh in which about three million Bengalis,mostly Muslims,were brutally massacred.Pakistan supported the jihad against the Revolutionary regime in Afganistan and got generous assistance for playing the junier partner.
Dilawar Ali Khan
Jun 22, 2012 11:28am
Biased and unfair analysis. Sacrifices by our armed forces and civilians and the colossal loss to our economy have been totally ignored. We will be better off without taking side with USA and her allies and by forging good relations with our neighbors.
Jul 01, 2012 07:24am
No, the friends should not double-cross.v
Jul 01, 2012 07:25am
Fully agreev
Jun 22, 2012 03:06pm
I agree that US has made efforts and continues to do so to invite India in playing greater role in South Asia. But there were also reports by news analysts that US has not made any headway in recruiting India to play that role. For some reasons Pakistanis in general have failed to see that India has no interest in getting involved in any long term arm conflict with or behalf of any country. India's interests are pure economics and nothing else. That said, it does not mean it will not defend itself if a conflict is imposed upon it.
Jun 24, 2012 10:42am
I feel sorry for a nation where people are confused about their identity. They are still in the dark.They dont know what kind of islam they have to accept.Is it the moderate one or the extremist one,should they have a democracy or army rule.The country is divided over punjabis ,sindhis and balochis mainly.To make everything worse there is no good leader.The country is still ruled by sardars and landlords who happened to be politicians.Their foreign policies eventually destroyed Afganistan.
Mohammad Sarfraz
Jun 22, 2012 01:24pm
We should not forget the history of super powers interference in Afghanistan like Soviet union and now NATO. Soviets suffered and NATO is suffering too. Actually it requires leadership vision on part of US and India along with Pakistan to resolve this complex problem of Afghanistan. Peaceful resolution of Afghanistan problem is the test of present leadership of the World.
Imtiaz Faruqui
Jun 22, 2012 08:15pm
This will make Pakistan stand on its feet, the US aid was like opium for them, the sleeping nation should wake up now or never.
Jun 23, 2012 02:01pm
Problem is that we cannot even get along with our neighbors.
Jun 23, 2012 01:02pm
What should I teach my kids?--Friends should not apologize if something done by mistake.
Jun 23, 2012 11:22am
Pakistan has to stop seeing non-state militancy as an asset against its neighbors. You can not allow killers to operate from ones country and expect others to tolerate. Also, it has not offered any explanation for Al-Queda leadership finding safety in Pakistan. Also its ambition to control Afghanisthan has a severe price to pay.
El Cid
Jun 24, 2012 08:23pm
Good common sense observation that is well documented in the history of war. Any one who thinks otherwise needs to wake-up and smell the coffee. Defeat in the battle-field is mandatory for the invader to leave in earnest, or at all.
Jun 27, 2012 03:12pm
Relation with US without Monetary help will be a blessing in disguise for Pakistan
Jun 29, 2012 10:58am
Wake up and do something about it. Start from your home work on your family don't get down on yourself. Help your father, mother brother sister who so ever is close to you just do little acts of kindness. You will find so many need our help but we continue to think about the government, forget about them they are hopeless. Have you asked your neighbor how is he doing ? Have you given a glass of water to the thirsty ? just do little things we live in Pakistan and our zamine will not change we just need to change our condition by doing little acts of kindness. Many laugh at me and think I am crazy but the joy you get by giving a glass of water to the thirsty, help a sick person, clean your street, give food to the poor makes my day. Be a simple kind Muslim and you will find inner peace. May Allah help us all.
Jun 29, 2012 07:17am
Double cross my foot how many more deaths you want to see in Pakistan. 30000+ innocent civilian died in this so call war on terror just in Pakistan and you call it double crossed US.
JP Singh
Jul 04, 2012 05:00pm
what are pakistans national interests?
JP Singh
Jul 04, 2012 05:02pm
He is the only guy who has made sense here. Thanks Buddy!!!!
Jun 22, 2012 11:41am
Panetta's statement that we should forget the past and stop beating each other on past differences regarding the salala incident. Then why dont we forget about 9/11 then ? the holocaust ?
Jun 22, 2012 11:33am
Great analysis against Pakistan isolation -- indeed a 'crazy country' without a Prime minister.
Jun 22, 2012 10:32am
usa should stop considering pakistan as its 49th state now
Nasir Mahmood
Jun 22, 2012 11:24am
The author notes US frustration with Pakistan. It makes no mention of Pakistan's gripes with the US. In allowing India a strong foothold into Afghanistan thus encircling its arch foe. If the US really wants Pakistan to operate on the same wavelength, it must address Pakistani fears.
Jun 22, 2012 10:44am
We are a broken and dispersed nation without a leader. Result is obvious in all spheres of life.
Jun 22, 2012 10:36am
nice writing....but we pakistani hate america.america has done more than enough wrong with us
Raja M. Ali Saleem
Jun 22, 2012 10:37am
A typical analysis by a 'Pakistan expert'. All about what US wants, feels and needs, nothing about Pakistan. With such 'experts' advising US government, no doubt the relationship is doomed.
Jun 22, 2012 12:41pm
It is basic rule of logic ''if you are not successful in some efforts try to alter the sequence of the coordinating factors". There is no doubt about it, Pakistan is a front line state in the war against terror.If realistically analysed UN never recognized it by their hart . the nature of Pakistani is different you can win there heart by simple good words not with power. Please stop saying do more do more. Every person in Pakistan loves Hillary Clinton due to her politeness and friendship. Admit this fact that US has lost war against terror, only and only Pakistan can help US to get out from this problem. It is hard fact that the rode of success passes through Pakistan. The relationship between Pakistan and US are not good now a days, only a friendly smile can eliminate the misunderstandings just say ;sorry.
Jun 24, 2012 11:01am
China has a border dispute with India but yet trades with India.Indians hate China for the 1962 invasion and will never forgive China for that yet they buy and sell,use Chinese goods.Why can't Pakistan do they same?
Cyrus Howell
Jun 22, 2012 01:41pm
The relationship is doomed because Pakistan has lost the support of the American people. Diplomats smile, tickle each other, have banquet food and continue with the illusionist acts. To support Pakistan is bad politics in America, especially in an election year.
Cyrus Howell
Jun 22, 2012 01:57pm
America's ally is Great Britain. Washington also consults with them. The US, the Commonwealth and Russia and China won World War II together (as in UN Security Council). It is the people who are together, not the politicians. Russians love Americans. The Chinese and the Philippinos, the British, the Dutch and French are probably the only people who thanked us for their rescue. The Jews never thanked us for saving what was left of them in Europe. It's about the people, not the politicians. + Forging good relations with India is possible, but not if the army is running Pakistan.
Michael Kugelman
Jun 22, 2012 01:55pm
Raja and Dilawar--thanks for the comments, though keep in mind my objective here was to capture the sentiments of Washington, not those of Islamabad. I agree that the U.S. govt constantly gives short shrift to Pakistani concerns and interests--which I've spoken about at length in previous pieces.
Jun 22, 2012 02:46pm
You are effectively saying the same thing that the author is saying in his article that the US/Pakistan relations are doomed.
tauseef rasheed
Jun 23, 2012 09:31am
A typical analysis of American think tank who are just looking at their own interest and have been supporting a dysfunctional corrupt government who have brought another corrupt person as their prime minister. First Americans should stop play ing double games with Pakistan and then expect something better from Pakistan. Its better to stay away from a enemy like American govt and look toward China for military hardware and economic help.
tauseef rasheed
Jun 23, 2012 09:37am
I do not agree with the anylisis. Pakistan has its own limitations and Americans should understand and be flexible with their demands. Americans should realize that Pakistan can become part of the solution if their national interest is also ensured in the end game of Afghanistan.
Agha Ata
Jun 23, 2012 07:27pm
No. These are not the darkest days of US-Pakistan relationship. These are a shade or two shy of being the darkest. I hope we do not get there.
Atif Javed
Jun 23, 2012 07:38pm
Dear writer, I would request you to also focus on the disconnect between US Secretary of State and Leon Paneeta. Paneta says that USA should not appologize whereas Clinton says that some of the mess in Pakistan has been US created. The hawkish approach of Paneta will surely affect Pak US relation negatively. I am surprized that instead of foreigh office, its Paneta giving statements on behalf of USA. It can also mean that country is in the hold of very strong and hawkish hierarchy. Appology, if asked will surely help improve strature of US in Pakistan and non-appology will cetainly take both countries apart which is no good for both.
Ahsan shabir
Jun 23, 2012 07:52pm
I wonder where there is pakistan's interest is sleeked for those comments are thumb down! Interesting for an artical published in Pakistan.
Jun 23, 2012 09:26pm
It's time to stop thinking of India as an arch-foe, Instead, think of India now as an arch-partner. The more Pakistan's strategic thinkers align with that thought, the quicker Pakistan will go from a hot-bed of global jihad to an economic powerhouse. Time to set a vision for the future. What will it be?
Jun 23, 2012 11:42pm
So Shamila Chaudhry believes that at last the US no longer needs Pakistan. Thats great. So why on earth are "behind the scenes US think tanks and policy makers feverishly trying to get the relationship back on track"? Pakistan's importance in an Afghan settlement stems mostly from its geography. Unless that can be changed, Pakistan's importance cannot be diminished. I think the US understands that only too well.
Jun 23, 2012 11:53pm
30,000+ Pakistani's died due to elitist USA policy of divide and rule. Afghanistan and Pakistan had already paid a heavy price for taking side with USA. This is what you get when you take side with USA, learn for Vietnam, Korea, etc take side with USA and be doomed . You want to see crazy look at the USA policies toward Mexico, South America, Africa and rest of the world expect Europe and Israel figure out who is crazy. Keep rest of the world poor while USA and Europe allies exploit world resources. This is war of resources and world dominance Pakistan and Afghanistan is just a side show.
Jun 24, 2012 02:53am
Pakistan is a troubled ship in stormy waters. The captain has abandoned it and those in charge only want to secure valuables for later disposal. It is a sad state of affairs indeed. The solution lies in common man rising above politics and demanding civilzed outcomes from their politicians and military. Can it be done? I sure hope so but it is not going to be easy.
Jun 24, 2012 04:50am
This is what happens when military and religious leaders dictate foriegn policy of Islamabad.
(Dr.) B.N. Anand
Jun 24, 2012 07:56am
Excuse me, again it seems people in Pakistan are living in a quasi state of self denial. Would any body believe, whether peace or no peace in Afghanistan, U.S forces are ever going to leave ever this region. Thee history does not say so. After world war 2 was over and since then, US forces are still in Japan and Germany. Not only being there, they have made permanent military bases in some areas of territories in these countries, where US does not need any permission to come and go. US may leave Afghanistan symbolically in 2014, but would retain a permanent base in the country to keep a watch like it has done in Iraq. So Pakistan has to think far ahead and with greater pragmatic approach. BNA
Jun 26, 2012 08:01am
I am from India. I am certainly impressed with the quality and the civility of the comments posted here...these are far better than the forums you see in Indian columns. I wish both India and Pakistan come together to form a economic powerhouse.