What’s Left: Mending The Bond



Dena Robinson

Historically, the United States has had an iffy relationship with Pakistan since the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 in which we did not aid Pakistan in the ways we had promised. Now our relations with Pakistan have become even more strained.

According to reports by the Associated Press, a NATO air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers over the weekend. U.S. accounts of the strike now suggest that it was a case of

mistaken identity.

Just inside Afghanistan, an attack by militants led NATO gunships and helicopters to fire upon what they thought were encampments being used by militants, but were actually Pakistani border posts.

NATO had verified with the Pakistani army whether they had any troops in the area and were told “no,” and from then on, they attacked the border posts.

Clearly this is a case of mistaken identity. At first, I was disheartened by the haste with which NATO struck the posts, but I understood that in times when terrorist attacks are a daily reality, such attacks are uncertain and can bring unintended ramifications. I believe the Obama Administration is succeeding in the ways in which they are dealing with

this crisis. The Administration realizes the integral role that Pakistan has played and will play in our fight against terrorism and sees the way that this strains that relationship.

In addition to the NATO airstrike on the Pakistani border posts, our relationship with Pakistan was strained in May due to our raid into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. The United States has much work to do in our communications with the Pakistani government and army.

 It should come as no surprise if, in the coming weeks, Americans living in Pakistan fall victim to retaliatory attacks. As an outsider, I understand that the attacks were mistakes, but for the families of the victims of the attacks, that may not be the reality. While a total breakdown in Pakistani-U.S. relations is highly unlikely, the United States has erred throughout the years in

proving Pakistan to be our ally in the fight against terrorism.

 A break in Pakistani-U.S. relations would put them at risk of losing billions of dollars in military and developmental aid.

There is no reason why there should have been a breakdown in communications between NATO and the Pakistan army, but this is the reality of the situation at hand. As for the ramifications for terrorism in the area, I believe that insurgents in Pakistan have been working to expand their cells throughout the South Asian region for many years and have been relatively successful in doing so. I do not deny that Pakistan is our ally, but we need to form alliances with other South Asian states, as well.

 India and Bangladesh are completely out of the question, for they have also had an extremely strained relationship with Pakistan. The fight against terrorism is one that the United States cannot wage alone and it seems as though we’ve recognized that.

We also need to recognize that insurgents throughout the Middle East do have a presence in South Asian states and are continuously creating new cells and mobilizing new followers to carry out their vicious acts. We must continue to work alongside nations to ensure that we are limiting the spread of terrorism – this includes mistaken airstrikes on those who are our allies in this fight.

Contact Dena Robinson at [email protected]