"It's interesting that the United States claims to want a democratic Pakistan, but whenever there's a Congressional delegation that goes to Pakistan, they don't meet their counterparts in the National Assembly. They all want to meet General Kayani and General Pasha, because they understand that's where the power lies," said Christina Fair of the Georgetown University.
"What Pakistan is doing vis-a-vis the terrorist groups that target India as well as us, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, what Pakistan is doing vis-a-vis the Afghan-Taliban, those policies are all going to be negotiated by General Kayani and General Pasha," she said in an interview to the popular National Public Radio.
It will be very difficult for the US to achieve its objectives in the war against terrorism and nuclear proliferation by alienating the Pakistani army, Fair said.
"But in some sense, that's exactly what it has to do if it wants to secure a future for Pakistan that is democratic and where the civilians have control over the military, not the military having control over the civilians," she said in response to a question.
Kayani is an interesting fellow, Fair said, adding that interestingly enough, the United States is always besotted by the newest chief of army staff. "They're convinced that he's a democrat, that he means well, all of these things. But the reality is he's a much more complicated figure," she said.
"He was the director of the ISI, which is the all-important intelligence agency, during the time when Pakistan began its U-turn... against the Taliban. So, it's interesting that we herald him now as the saviour of Pakistan in some measure, when it was his policies when he was the ISI chief that brought about some of the most precipitous conflicts in US-Pakistan relations over Afghanistan," she said.
Zardari wields very little power, Fair said. "His powers were largely stripped after the passage of the 18th Amendment, which took many of the powers that (former) President (Pervez) Musharraf arrogated to the position of the President, and redistributed them back to the Prime Minister. So, he is constitutionally weakened, but he is also very problematic domestically, because he is absolutely despised and loathed."
"Equally importantly, he's failed to deal with corruption for obvious reasons. He is really not perceived to have managed very effectively the crises of the floods and the rehabilitation and reconstruction following the Pakistan army's counter-insurgency operations in Swat and elsewhere," she said.
Zardari is not a popular president, she said. "He is known as Mr Ten Per Cent. Some would say Mr 110 Per Cent," Fair said. "I mean, if you want to get a large infrastructure contract in Pakistan, it is alleged that Mr Zardari will take a negotiation fee," she said.