Attacks Push U.S.-Pakistan Tensions To Deadly Pitch

Distrust between Pakistan and the U.S. keeps rising. On Friday more than 80 people were killed in a suicide attack on a paramilitary training center; the Pakistani Taliban called it revenge for Osama bin Laden's death. Host Scott Simon talks to Moeed Yusuf of the United States Institute of Peace about U.S.-Pakistan relations and the political situation in that country following the killing of bin Laden.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

The repercussions of Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of the United States continue throughout Pakistan. Yesterday, more than 80 people were killed in a suicide attack on a paramilitary training center - revenge for bin Laden's death, according to the Pakistani Taliban.

Moeed Yusuf is the South Asia advisor for the United States Institute of Peace. He's just returned from a quick visit to Pakistan and he joins us in the studio. Thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. MOEED YUSUF (South Asia Advisor, United States Institute of Peace): Thanks for having me.

SIMON: So, what does the death of Osama bin Laden do inside Pakistan?

Mr. YUSUF: I think it's a very delicate balance that the government now has to have. The circumstances in which he was killed and where he was found in a garrison town fairly shocking and embarrassing to the state. So, internationally they have to balance that. Domestically, there's a backlash from the Pakistani Taliban, as you've mentioned. So, I think it's going to be very delicate, but rest assured, the violence levels are going to go up in the weeks ahead.

SIMON: Why haven't there been more demonstrations denouncing the United States for incursions on Pakistani soil or for that matter lamenting the death of bin Laden?

Mr. YUSUF: You know, this is an interesting time for Pakistanis, because bin Laden is not the (unintelligible) Taliban for Pakistan, who have some relevance there. There are not many takers for bin Laden being sort of the leading light of the Muslim (unintelligible). That doesn't surprise me that they haven't come out in support. What does surprise me though that there hasn't been enough protests going on against the incursion by the U.S.

But I think that's linked to this argument that Osama bin Laden's death is largely seen as a victory for the Pakistani state and perhaps for the people who are tired of seeing al-Qaida blow up their cities.

Yes, the U.S. is not liked but I think at this moment perhaps many have been silenced by the fact that at least it's bin Laden who's dead.

SIMON: And the fact, as you mentioned, that Osama bin Laden was apparently uncovered in this Pakistani garrison town. You call that embarrassing. Does it cause more Pakistanis to question the security apparatus of their state?

Mr. YUSUF: I think what I saw in Pakistan this time was that the Pakistanis were asking the very same questions of their state and military as the rest of the world. They want an inquiry. They want to know why this embarrassment was caused. So, I think more than chiding the state for allowing the U.S., the first set of questions is: tell us what happened. Why have we been embarrassed in the international community?

SIMON: Does this at the same time represent some kind of opportunity for Pakistan?

Mr. YUSUF: I think it represents an opportunity both for Pakistan and the U.S. to reset this relationship, to be more candid and perhaps to talk about how to move forward in Afghanistan now at the al-Qaida supreme leader is no more. Is this going to make it easy for the Taliban to reconcile? Will Pakistan be able to play a greater role? I think it certainly provides this opportunity.

SIMON: How do you react to some of voices in the United States and the Western world who have said, look, you know, bin Laden is dead. It's time to vastly, vastly reduce the amount of aid Pakistan gets because on top of everything else, we really can't trust them.

Mr. YUSUF: I think the point is fair. The trust factor is a huge problem. But I think it'll be a very dangerous move in this knee-jerk reaction to cut Pakistan loose.

And I testified before the Senate Foreign Relations committee last week arguing exactly this; that I think this is a moment to buy over the trust to the Pakistanis to support even more. Because ultimately my sense is that Pakistan remains much more important in the long term. If Pakistan destabilizes further, I think Afghanistan will look nothing compared to that.

SIMON: And is the Pakistan and Taliban in any danger of becoming an even larger factor?

Mr. YUSUF: I think temporarily they will because the violence levels will go up. But overall I don't think so. I think the state has really pushed them back to the tribal areas. But there's a milieu of other terrorist organizations floating around in Pakistan who are going to keep this country unstable for a long time.

SIMON: Moeed Yusuf, South Asia advisor of the United States Institute of Peace. Thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. YUSUF: It's a pleasure.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.