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Tensions Rise Between United States, Pakistan
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Tensions Rise Between United States, Pakistan


Tensions Rise Between United States, Pakistan
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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Steve Inskeep is on assignment this week. I'm Renee Montagne. These days U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan are tightly linked to what happens in Pakistan. And that new strategy by the Obama administration has placed huge demands on Pakistan, which in turn is creating bad blood between Washington and Islamabad. NPR's Jackie Northam has more.

JACKIE NORTHAM: In public, the U.S. and Pakistan are allies with a parallel interest in eradicating Islamist extremism. But behind the scenes, it's a complicated relationship, one that Pakistani and American analysts say is increasingly fraught with resentment, miscommunication and mistrust. There have been a series of incidents and issues recently which have contributed to friction between Islamabad and Washington. One of them has to do with aid.

A bill has been introduced in the House that calls for about $10 billion in military aid and development assistance over the next five years. Shuja Nawaz with the Atlantic Council says the bill is loaded with conditions that even the most stable government would find difficult to fulfill.

Mr. SHUJA NAWAZ (Atlantic Council): It's created a very powerful backlash in Pakistan — among the public for one, who think the United States is dictating, and among the government.

NORTHAM: The sheer number of conditions saturating the 59-page bill helps illustrate Congress's frustration with Pakistan. Since 9/11, the U.S. has given Pakistan $11 billion to help fight terrorism. The Bush administration did not demand any accounting of the funds and the U.S. arguably got little for its investment. Analysts says this time Pakistan will need to be held accountable for the U.S. aid it receives. The aid issue hung over a visit to Pakistan earlier this month by Richard Holbrooke, the administration's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

So too did the question of drones — unmanned airplanes the U.S. has been using to attack suspected militants in the tribal areas of Pakistan, along the Afghanistan border. Shortly before leaving for Pakistan, Mullen, Holbrooke and other senior U.S. officials publicly suggested that elements in Pakistan's powerful intelligence service, the ISI, retain close links with the Taliban. Shahid Javed Burki is a former finance minister in Pakistan and meets with senior Pakistani officials during regular visits to the country. He says he was surprised the U.S. officials spoke so openly.

Mr. SHAHID JAVED BURKI (Former Finance Minister, Pakistan): That has become a very sensitive issue and I think it has been raised unnecessarily by the senior U.S. officials. What is their compulsion, what's their motive? I really don't know.

NORTHAM: Pakistan's intelligence chief, Ahmed Shuja Pasha refused to hold separate meetings with the U.S. team. The tension between the U.S. and Pakistani officials was almost palpable during a joint press conference with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Mr. SHAH MEHMOOD QURESHI (Foreign Minister, Pakistan): Bottom line is a question of trust. We are partners, and we want to be partners. We can only work together if we respect each other and we trust each other. There is no other way. Nothing else will work.

NORTHAM: U.S. officials say Mullen and Holbrooke's comments stem from impatience with Pakistan's efforts to crack down on the Taliban. Still, the Atlantic Council's Shuja Nawaz says those comments — along with the other issues — did not produce a positive outcome.

Mr. NAWAZ: This is probably the worst-ever visit by an American team. It was a complete disaster, and if this is how you want to win friends, I just wonder how you want to create enemies.

NORTHAM: Vali Nasr is a professor at Tufts University's Fletcher School of International Affairs and has been tapped to be a senior advisor to Holbrooke. Nasr says the Obama administration is trying to make Pakistan a strategic partner, a process which can often provoke tension.

Professor VALI NASR (Tufts University): You're trying to recalibrate a decades-old relationship in the middle of a war in a new direction, and there's going to be hiccups, there's going to be resistance, there's going to be pushback, there's going to be disappointment. But end of the day, I think the Obama administration is doing the right thing.

NORTHAM: But analysts say it's also asking a lot of a Pakistani government that's extremely fragile and only been in power for about a year.

Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.

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