Washington has not had an easy time managing the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, to put it mildly. For decades, the United States has sought to change Pakistan’s strategic focus from competing with India and seeking more influence in Afghanistan to protecting its own internal stability and economic development. But even though Pakistan has continued to depend on U.S. military and economic support, it has not changed its behavior much. Each country accuses the other of being a terrible ally—and perhaps both are right.
Pakistanis tend to think of the United States as a bully. In their view, Washington provides desperately needed aid intermittently, yanking it away whenever U.S. officials want to force policy changes. Pakistanis believe that Washington has never been grateful for the sacrifice of the thousands of Pakistani military and security officials who have died fighting terrorists in recent decades, nor mourned the tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians whom those terrorists have killed. Many in the country, including President Asif Ali Zardari and General Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief, recognize that Pakistan has at times gone off the American script, but they argue that the country would be a better ally if only the United States showed more sensitivity to Islamabad’s regional concerns.
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