Cowboy action

Cowboy action

Fragile US-Pakistan relations appear to be heading for a rupture. A Nato strike on a Pakistani border checkpoint that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers has triggered the latest crisis in bilateral relations.

A furious Islamabad is considering a review of all bilateral co-operation with Washington. This is expected to have serious implications for the US-led counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan. 

Not only will Pakistan slow down anti-Taliban operations on its soil but also is taking steps that will severely undermine Nato military operations inside Afghanistan. It has decided to shut off supply lines to Nato troops in Afghanistan.

This could prove catastrophic for Nato operations as almost 50 per cent of its supplies to soldiers in Afghanistan goes via Pakistan. Pakistan has also threatened to pull out of the upcoming international conference at Bonn. Should it do so, the conference, already without the Taliban, will be reduced to a futile exercise.

The US is in a clearly unenviable situation but it has only itself to blame. It has repeatedly offended Iran and excluded the regional powers, preferring to put all its eggs in the Pakistan basket. Had it treated Iran fairly it could have hoped for overland access into Afghanistan. Had it kept the Russians involved and included as an equal partner in its strategy on Afghanistan, it wouldn’t be in the desperate situation it is in today. Now it will have to yield major concessions to Pakistan to get the supply line reopened again. Pakistan is sure to draw blood.

The anger and affront that Pakistan feels over Washington’s arrogance is completely understandable. After all, this isn’t the first time that the US has ridden rough shod over its territorial sovereignty. US officials often seek to justify their drone strikes and other unilateral actions with the argument that Pakistani ‘duplicity’ forces them to act without consultation. However, such arrogant actions are counter-productive over the long run.

The US needs Pakistan’s co-operation just as it needs the support of other regional powers. The problem is that it is unwilling to share its intentions in Afghanistan, such as its plans for retaining bases in the country, even with its Nato partners.  In the circumstances, it cannot hope to have reliable partners in the region. Cowboy-like aggression is not in its best interests.