ISLAMABAD – Relations between the United States and Pakistan have continued to fray since a US Special Forces team killed Osama bin Laden in a comfortable villa near a major Pakistani military academy. But the tit-for-tat retaliation that has followed the raid reflects deeper sources of mistrust and mutual suspicion. The latest round has focused on the alleged activities of the Pakistani military’s powerful intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), in the United States. ISI is accused of watching over the Pakistani diaspora and of sponsoring unregistered lobbyists working to shape congressional opinion.
Indeed, this is not the first time that Pakistan’s relations with the US have been on a slippery slope. In 1965, after helping the country to build up its economy and its military strength, the US walked out over the war with India that Pakistan had provoked by sending “freedom fighters” into Kashmir.
In 1989, following the Soviet Union’s exit from Afghanistan, the US lost interest in what it now calls AfPak – Afghanistan-Pakistan. The Americans began returning to Pakistan until, in 1998, the Pakistani government decided to follow India in testing an atomic bomb. This led to the imposition of US sanctions – and America’s third exit from Pakistan.
That situation remained unchanged when Afghanistan-based Al Qaeda struck America on September 11, 2001. After receiving a “you are either with us or against us” warning from President George W. Bush’s administration, General Pervez Musharraf’s Pakistan decided to side with the US. It severed relations with Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, which it had helped to install five years earlier, and allowed America to use its air space to launch strikes on Afghanistan.