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Poll: Majority of Pakistanis View US as Enemy

A new opinion poll indicates that roughly six in 10 Pakistanis view the United States as an enemy, oppose the war in Afghanistan and are becoming less concerned about the threat of the Taliban and al-Qaida.

The survey, released by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center this week, shows that despite intense U.S. outreach and billions of dollars in aid, Pakistanis remain extremely skeptical of Washington's intentions.

Negative image

America's overall image remains very negative in Pakistan, says the center's president Andrew Kohut.

"Along with the Turks and Egyptians, Pakistanis give the United States the lowest ratings of the 20 countries that we polled,'" said Kohut. "And President Obama's famous global popularity does not extend to Pakistan. And when we ask people questions about the United States more specifically, a majority say they consider the United States an enemy of Pakistan, not an ally of Pakistan."

Mistrust linked to relations with India

Kohut adds some of that mistrust stems from Washington's close relationship with India, which 53 percent of survey respondents said is Pakistan's biggest threat.

"The serious concerns that Pakistanis have about the United States co-exist with, and are related to, the deep worries that Pakistanis have about India. In fact, Pakistanis are more worried about the external threat of India than they are worried about the internal threat of extremist groups," Kohut said.

History also plays a role in Washington's troubled relationship with Islamabad.

During the 1980s, the United States worked with Pakistan to support Afghan guerilla fighters battling the Soviet army. After the Afghans successfully expelled Soviet forces, the U.S. support abruptly ended.

Rebuilding trust

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a news conference Thursday that Washington is still rebuilding the trust that was lost in the years that followed.

"One of the challenges the U.S. has faced in both Afghanistan and Pakistan is that they vividly remember us walking out in 1989 and being left to deal with their own security situation on their own. The notion that, under those circumstances and not knowing whether they could count on us to be there, the notion that they would hedge in one way or another is not a surprise," Gates said.

Washington has pledged $7.5 billion in aid to Islamabad over the next five years to try to win the support of civilians who are suspicious of the U.S. fight against militants in Pakistan, and the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan.

But despite massive amounts of foreign aid, the Pew Research poll shows only 17 percent of Pakistani respondents have a favorable view of America, and just 11 percent view it as a partner.

Opposition to Afghan war

Moreover, the survey shows Pakistanis widely oppose the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, and only a quarter of respondents think it would be bad for their country if the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan.

"There is a sharp decline in concern that extremists would take over the country compared to attitudes in 2009," said Pew president Andrew Kohut. "Worries about the threat of the Taliban were less extensive, and there was much less concern about al-Qaida than there was in 2009."

Pakistan has waged its own fight against Taliban militants who continue to carry out a wave of suicide attacks on soft targets in Pakistan. Despite military operations against Islamic extremists in Swat Valley and South Waziristan, Washington and Kabul both say Islamabad should do more to fight terrorism.

According to the Pew poll, few Pakistanis are happy with the situation in their country. Of the 2,000 adults interviewed last April, 84 percent said they are dissatisfied with the state of their nation. And just 20 percent had a positive view of their president, Asif Ali Zardari. The grim ratings were driven by widespread concerns about terrorism, crime, political corruption, a weak economy and the ongoing dispute with India over Kashmir.

Related Report by VOA's Ravi Khanna