Leading article: Perils of Pakistan's badlands

Share
Related Topics

After the arrest of the CIA officer Raymond Davis in January, and the secret raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, it was hard to imagine that relations between the US and Pakistan could get any worse. Alas, the Nato air raid at the weekend close to the murky border region with Afghanistan, in which at least 24 Pakistani soldiers died, has managed to achieve that feat.

Details of the incident are unclear. Islamabad maintains the attack was unprovoked, while Nato says the strikes were called in after US and Afghan forces themselves came under fire from the Pakistan side, where Taliban units and other Islamic extremists notoriously operate. What is clear is that there is a genuine risk of rupture between the two countries.

It was always assumed that the common interest of both sides in working together would prevail, whatever the tensions of the moment. For Washington, co-operation with Pakistan is essential for a negotiated political settlement that will permit the US to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the target date of 2014. Meanwhile, the closer the US can watch the security of the nuclear stockpile of a highly unstable country, the better. For its part, Pakistan and its powerful armed forces rely heavily on American aid.

But this underlying assumption is no longer automatic. Distrust between the two sides is now almost total. The retaliatory measures taken by Pakistan, most notably the closure of Nato supply routes to Afghanistan, reflect a popular fury at this latest, and deadliest, example of apparent US contempt for the country's national sovereignty that its government could not ignore, even if it wanted to. For their part, though, many officials in Washington believe barely a word they are told by their counterparts in Islamabad, and least of all on issues of counter-terrorism. This is a recipe for rupture.

Somehow the relationship must be patched up, and not constantly held prisoner to incidents along a remote border that no one controls. For all the reasons listed, a break between the US and Pakistan would be a strategic disaster, with implications stretching well beyond the immediate region.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
 

The digital world is incredible – but it’s human bonds that make us who we are

Joanna Shields
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness