The Pakistani state has long been accused by its Western allies of facing both ways on terrorism. But Admiral Mike Mullen's accusation last week was even more alarming. The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff claimed that elements within the Pakistani state "sanctioned" the kidnapping and execution of the journalist, Saleem Shahzad, two months ago. This drew a furious denial from the government in Islamabad.
The backdrop is the fraying of relations between the two nations. Pakistan has shut down a US programme to train paramilitary forces and threatened to close the CIA drone base. In response, the White House is reported to have ordered $800m in military aid to Islamabad, a third of the annual US subvention, to be held back.
Yet the US is in danger of prioritising the wrong goals here. Pakistan's tragedy is not the weakness of its military, but the feebleness of its civil society. It is to be hoped that Adm Mullen's comments about the murder of Mr Shahzad are the beginning of a recognition on the part of the US that protecting the free press and the rule of law in Pakistan is just as important as military cooperation.