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

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs