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BUSH LAUDS PAKISTAN TIES

Author: Eben Kaplan
January 24, 2006

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Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan met with President Bush Wednesday for a wide-ranging discussion on the many facets of what Bush called "a vital relationship for the United States." The much-anticipated encounter came at a time when the U.S.-Pakistani alliance has been under intense scrutiny, especially after a U.S.-fired missile intended for al-Qaeda deputy Ayman Zawahiri (BBC) landed in a Pakistani village near the Afghan border on January 13. Reports suggest Zawahiri survived the attack but four or five al-Qaeda operatives were killed along with eighteen civilians (Daily Times). Prime Minister Aziz summed up the nations' tumultuous relationship during an address at CFR last week: "Pakistan has had the distinction of being both the most allied ally and the most sanctioned ally of the United States."

On Monday, Aziz met with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to discuss cooperation on defense and security matters (Dawn). Targeted strikes, described in a CFR Background Q&A, have become an increasingly common tactic in the U.S.-led counterterrorism campaign. But on Sunday, Aziz condemned the January 13 attack (AP), which he said was carried out without Pakistan's consent. In Pakistan, angry protests (AP) and scathing news reports highlighted the difficulties Aziz and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf are faced with when trying to cooperate with the United States. Nonetheless, Jim Hoagland writes in the Washington Post, "Washington needs to hold Musharraf's feet to the fire on al-Qaeda and the Taliban."

Last week's release of a new video from Osama bin Laden and a new audio tape from Zawahiri (PDF) accentuated the shortcomings of the U.S.-led military campaign in the region. Both men are believed to be hiding along the lawless Pakistan-Afghanistan border, where, the New York Times reports, resistance is "stronger than ever." The Economist explains this is just one of many daunting tasks facing Pakistan's leadership.

Attitudes toward the United States in Pakistan had been on the rise as a result of U.S. aid efforts to earthquake victims, and Aziz was gracious in his thanks. His meeting with Bush also included an appeal for more foreign investment in Pakistan's economy (Dawn), which grew 8.4 percent last year. There was some speculation that the Prime Minister also requested U.S. assistance with nuclear technology (Daily Times), which seems reasonable after Washington's nuclear deal with India (PDF).

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