By Arab News
After six decades of strategic partnership, Pakistan and the United States remain strange bedfellows. The allies have faced quite a few formidable challenges together. From surviving the Cold War to confronting the Russians in Afghanistan, the allies have been through a lot of thick and thin with each other’s help and support. Without doubt the most trying and frustrating phase in their relationship has so far been the war in Afghanistan.
In the wake of 9/11 attacks, Pakistan was forced to make a 180-degree turn, severing its close ties with the Taleban regime and jumping on the US bandwagon. And as the US-led Western coalition’s woes deepen in Afghanistan with no end in sight, America’s frustration with Pakistan and its pressure to “do more” to fight the insurgency is also mounting. The US media and politicians have been increasingly talking about Pakistan not doing enough to end the Afghan insurgency and militancy along its border. Indeed, many of them openly hold Islamabad responsible for the unholy mess next door.
On the other hand, the popular anger in Pakistan over this never-ending war that Uncle Sam has imposed on the country is touching new highs. Caught between the murderous US drone strikes and suicidal militants, Pakistanis are losing all hope in the future of their country.
President Asif Zardari was hardly exaggerating when in an interview with The Guardian on Monday, he warned that the war in Afghanistan is destabilizing Pakistan and is undermining efforts to restore its democratic institutions and economic prosperity. Zardari has also slammed US politicians and media for their constant criticism of Pakistan accusing them of being clueless about this war and all the sacrifices Pakistan has made as a US ally.
More important, the Pak leader has underscored the “growing urgency of forging an inclusive peace settlement” in Afghanistan for a swift end to the war. Zardari’s comments come at a time when the US-Pakistan relations have hit a dangerous low. This week, a White House report presented to Congress, suggested Pakistan lacks a decisive game plan in “the war on terror” and is struggling to consolidate its gains in the tribal areas. This coincided with a Congressional panel headed by Gary Ackerman pushing the administration to abandon Pakistan in favor of India. Pakistan is about to go broke or collapse, warned the pro-Israel Democrat who actively campaigned for the war on Iraq.
So where do the allies go from here? The question will confront Zardari and Obama when they meet next month. Whether they like it or not, the two countries need and are stuck with each other. They will have to address the major irritant in their relationship though. After a decade of this all-consuming war, it’s past time the US and its allies sit together with everyone concerned, including Taleban, to find a way out of the morass. The longer the Western coalition stays in Afghanistan, the more Afghanistan and Pakistan — and the region beyond — will suffer.
The US has been burning billions of dollars every month to stay in Afghanistan — and Iraq — at a huge cost to its economy. Which in turn is dragging down the world economy. And what Pakistan and Afghanistan and the greater Middle East have suffered as a result of this war is almost impossible to measure. No one benefits from this war — or from any war for that matter — except the mighty US arms lobby. It’s time to cut and run, Mr. President!