Those GLOCs are probably the most important reason that Clinton
played nice toward Pakistan: there is little other reason for Washington
to grant Islamabad any courtesy on the matter. Ever since last year's Navy SEAL
that killed Osama bin Laden, Congress and the White House have become
increasingly angry with Pakistan's seeming antipathy toward U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
Leaders in Washington assume, perhaps correctly, that if Osama could set up
shop in a huge mansion right down the road from Pakistan's premier military
academy, then Pakistan is simply not a reliable or honest partner in the struggle
Pakistani officials, predictably, bristle at the suggestion
that they don't care about terrorism. The Pakistani government says 3,300
soldiers have died fighting militants in the volatile Federally Administered
Tribal Areas, and nine general officers have died (including one three-star general).
Pointing to this data, many senior Pakistani officials insist, off the record,
that such high losses -- more than the U.S. has lost in Afghanistan -- are evidence
that they take the battle against terrorism very seriously.
In a bizarre way, both the U.S. and Pakistan are right:
Pakistan has suffered greatly from terrorism on its soil, and thousands of
soldiers have died trying to eliminate it (and far more Pakistani citizens have
died from Islamist terrorists than Americans ever have). But the U.S. is also
right about Pakistan's half-hearted efforts to root out the extremists. As just
one example, in January of 2008 former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
told 60 Minutes that Pakistan was
"not particularly looking for Osama bin Laden" during the six years he was
president after September 2001.
So, despite the many sacrifices Pakistani soldiers have
made, their own high officials have been rather public about how little they
really cared about ending the scourge of al-Qaeda. It's difficult to accept the
protests coming from Islamabad when U.S. officials stake something so seemingly obvious as
anything other than posturing.
This leaves the future U.S.-Pakistan relationship in a bit of
a bind. Washington has faced serious criticism for its decision to deepen
its relationship with the government of Uzbekistan to expand the so-called
Northern Distribution Network, which will ship some equipment from the
Afghanistan war northward, away from Pakistan. There is a simple reason for
this policy: it gives the U.S. an alternative to Pakistan that, while far more
expensive, makes it tougher for Pakistan to use the GLOCs as leverage against the U.S. It
is a transactional policy, in other words, trading the downsides of engaging
with an abusive regime in Tashkent for gaining some advantage over the much more
volatile, dangerous Pakistan.
But, now, it is important to keep in mind that the
Pakistani-U.S. détente is also transactional in nature: the U.S. is making amends
because it needs Pakistan to withdraw on time from Afghanistan. But those
amends are not infinite in nature, nor are they guaranteed to last one day
before the final MRAP is loaded onto a shipping container for the long journey
back to America.