News / Asia

Post 9/11 War on Terror Strains US-Pakistan Relations

When the masterminds behind the terror attacks on the United States in 2001 were discovered hiding in Afghanistan, the U.S. sent thousands of troops to hunt them down - and asked Pakistan to help. But Pakistan has its own interests in the region and that has meant for a troublesome alliance. 

Abbottabad raid

Few things have exemplified or strained the tenuous relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan more than what happened earlier this year in Abbottabad - the U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

It raised questions in the U.S. about Pakistan’s friendship, and angered many Pakistanis, upset by America's unilateral action.

Supporters of a Pakistani religious group Jamaat-e-Islami chant slogans during an anti American rally in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on  May 6, 2011. Osama bin Laden was killed by a helicopter-borne U.S. military force on Monday, in a fortress-like compound on the outskirts of Abbottabad.  (AP Photo)

But Cameron Munter, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, told VOA the two nations must remain united against a common enemy.

"The problem we have here is that we are dealing with ruthless people  who are bringing something to Pakistan that Pakistan didn't want, just like America didn't want an attack on 9/11," explained Munter. "Pakistan doesn't want these kinds of terrorists. They're bringing them here and trying to drive us apart. Trying to make this sound as if it is somehow a fight that we shouldn't be in together."


When the United States launched its military campaign in Afghanistan, it inserted itself into a far larger, far messier regional struggle.

Tensions between India and Pakistan dominate the sub-continent. They have fought four wars and countless skirmishes since their creation more than 60 years ago. Both possess nuclear weapons.

Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan is porous, nearly impossible to control. Ethnic Pastuns live on both sides of a disputed line arbitrarily drawn by a 19th century British statesman.

Maleeha Lodhi, the former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., says Washington didn’t fully understand the ramifications of sending troops to Afghanistan.

"Well, I think the blowback of 10 years of war in Afghanistan has been devastating for Pakistan," Lodhi said. "It led not just to the prolongation of a war that destabilized the region, but it also led to the defeat of America’s own objectives. Because America was unable to distinguish and therefore separate al-Qaida from the Taliban. Pakistan believes that this war and the way it was fought was pushed into Pakistan’s border region."


Taliban, al-Qaida and other insurgents fled into Pakistan when the U.S. led coalition arrived in 2001.

And after Pakistan sided with the U.S,  many of the fighters in those tribal regions decided Pakistan’s military and government were legitimate targets.  

That led Pakistan’s military to pursue some insurgents, but not others -- notably the Haqqani network, allied to both the Taliban and al-Qaida.

The U.S. responded with drone attacks on insurgents inside Pakistan, sparking a wave of anti-Americanism. Many Pakistanis feel the U.S. is violating their nation's sovereignty.

Will relationship last?

But Ambassador Munter says for the last 10 years the two nations have stood together and suffered together. And, he says, with that shared experience they should hold together.

"Both countries have shown resilience. I think it is a good sign for our relationship," noted the ambassador. "Both countries have suffered and we honor the sacricies that people have made. But huge challenges remain and we're going to have to stay together in order to face them."

Parties on both sides of the relationship question that, though. Whether it’s in the American Congress where there’s talk of cutting aid or in Pakistan where there’s anger and talk of breaking with America for now the two remain allies.

At the end of the day, though, on both sides, a common analogy is often used: better a difficult marriage, than an ugly divorce.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs