| Sept 10
Sept 10 While the ruins of New York's World
Trade Center were still smouldering in late September 2001,
President George W. Bush put nations around the globe on notice:
"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists".
It was an ultimatum that Pakistan's then-president, Gen.
Pervez Musharraf, felt acutely as Washington readied for war
against the Taliban regime next door in Afghanistan. In his
memoirs, he recalls being told by the Americans that "if we
chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed
back to the Stone Age".
Musharraf ditched the Taliban and threw Pakistan's lot in
with the United States, making it a strategic ally in the
"global war on terror", despite quiet misgivings among his top
brass in the powerful military establishment.
Over the decade since then, however, Pakistan has been an
erratic and reluctant ally. Trust has crumbled on both sides
and, with tensions now running high, it is clear that Islamabad
increasingly sees Washington as more of a foe than a friend.
"I'm very pessimistic," said Bruce Reidel, who advised U.S.
President Barack Obama on policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"We're on a downward slide towards a more hostile relationship.
Obama wants to save it, but our interests don't coincide."
The dangers could be enormous if Washington fails to arrest
the deterioration in relations with Pakistan, a nuclear-armed
but largely dysfunctional state run by a feckless,
military-cowed government and teeming with Islamist militants.
At stake are the fight against terrorism, the security of
Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and - as Islamabad plays off its
friendship with China against the United States - regional
The United States and Pakistan have cooperated for decades,
first against the Soviet Union and then the al Qaeda network.
But anti-Americanism runs deep in Pakistan, in part because of
Washington's perceived tilt towards arch-rival, India, but also
because of a sense -- heightened by the invasion of Iraq in 2003
-- that the United States is a threat to the Muslim world.
"The U.S. invasion of Iraq, coming on top of U.S. support
for Israel and growing ties with India, greatly strengthened the
vague and inchoate but pervasive feeling among Pakistanis that
'Islam is in danger' at the hands of the U.S.," wrote Anatol
Lieven of the War Studies Department of King's College, London,
in a new book, "Pakistan, a Hard Country".
Lieven found that an "absolutely overwhelming majority" of
Pakistanis, including the country's elites, do not believe 9/11
was the work of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda. Many are convinced
the attacks were in fact a plot by the Bush administration,
Israel, or both, to provide a pretext for the U.S. invasion of
Afghanistan as part of a strategy to dominate the Muslim world.
Majid Qurashi, a hospital doctor in the militancy-plagued
city of Peshawar on the road to Afghanistan, recently voiced the
sentiments many Pakistanis felt on September 11, 2001.
"When I saw the planes crash into the tower, I thought that,
finally, someone had decided to teach the United States a lesson
and respond to all the bad things it had been doing around the
world," he told Reuters.
India has been Pakistan's enemy No. 1 since the violent
partition of the subcontinent in 1947. However, hostility
towards the United States has grown, reaching new heights after
U.S. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden at his Pakistan hideout in May.
Another irritant has been the U.S. drone campaign against
militants in Pakistan's tribal badlands on the border with
Afghanistan, which Islamabad complains have killed civilians and
only encouraged public sympathy for the groups sheltering there.
A Pew Research Center survey of Pakistanis in June found
that 69 percent saw the United States as an enemy and 47 percent
were "very" worried about a military threat from Washington.
Distrust of Washington is most marked in the army, where
there is a sense that - from the Cold War to the war on
terrorism - the United States has used Pakistan as a means to
pursue its own security interests.
Hussain Haqqani, Islamabad's envoy to Washington, recently
asked an audience of mainly military officers by a show of
hands, "what is the principle national security threat to
Pakistan?": a majority named the United States.
One of the generals who attended a meeting with Musharraf
days after 9/11 said that none of the officers openly questioned
his decision to side with the United States, but some reminded
him "that Americans have a habit of pulling the rug from under
our feet once their interests are served".
"America is after our nuclear assets," said the now-retired
general, who asked not to be named. "It wants to create chaos in
Pakistan to force the United Nations to say Pakistan is an
unstable state and cannot secure its nuclear weapons and the
international community should take control of these weapons."
There is mounting frustration with the relationship on the
U.S. side too, and calls for an end to the security and economic
funds that Pakistan receives from Washington, which have added
up to some $20 billion since 2001.
This week the White House hailed Pakistan's capture of a top
al Qaeda figure as an example of counter-terrorism cooperation.
But it was a rare moment of entente amid U.S. accusations
that Pakistan plays a double game over militants on its soil.
For many, the fact that bin Laden had been holed up for years in
a house just a couple of hours up the road from Islamabad and
near a Pakistani military academy said it all.
Pakistan denies any collusion with al Qaeda and regularly
reminds Washington that it has paid the highest price in human
life and money supporting the U.S. war on militancy.
However, the root of the trust deficit lies with Pakistan's
intelligence agency, the ISI, which has a long history of
nurturing militant groups to fight India.
Pakistan also stands accused of shielding on its own soil
Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and others that battle U.S.
troops in Afghanistan to guarantee that it has a proxy stake in
any political settlement there when American forces withdraw.
"Let me be clear: many Americans died in Afghanistan because
of Pakistan's ISI," U.S. senator and naval reservist Mark Kirk
fumed this week after an assignment in Afghanistan, proposing
"an American tilt" towards India to encourage Delhi to bankroll
an Afghan government that could fight terrorism and the ISI.
Ayesha Siddiqa, an expert on the Pakistani military, said
the United States and Pakistan have reached a point of strategic
divergence as the moment for Afghanistan to stand on its own
"They can no longer agree on the endgame in Afghanistan,"
she said. "Both are trying to get the maximum out of each other
before that comes."
Embarrassed and feeling betrayed by the secret raid on bin
Laden, Pakistan has cut back on U.S. counter-insurgency trainers
in the country and placed limits on CIA activities there.
Washington responded by suspending about one-third of its $2.7
billion annual defence aid to Islamabad.
"ALL-WEATHER FRIEND" CHINA
In a sign that Pakistan is looking to use its amity with
China as a lever in its troubled relationship with Washington,
when the prime minister made his first address to the nation on
the bin Laden incident he seized the opportunity to lavish
praise on "our all-weather friend".
But Beijing's friendship will only go so far.
There is no sign that China is ready to shoulder the
financial cost of propping up Pakistan that the United States
has so far been willing to bear, and it will calculate that
getting too close would tighten strategic ties between
Washington and New Delhi, stoking regional tensions.
Despite the tit-for-tat diplomatic sniping between them,
Pakistan and the United States are trying