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FOCUS ON U.S.-PAKISTAN RELATIONS

Author: Eben Kaplan
January 23, 2006

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Diplomatic visits between allies are often seemingly focused more on ceremony than substance. That will not be the case Tuesday, when Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz meets with President Bush during a critical juncture for the U.S.-Pakistani partnership in the "war on terror." The awkward alliance was summed up by Aziz in 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." Ties have been strained since January 13 when a U.S.-fired missile, intended for al-Qaeda deputy Ayman Zawahiri (BBC), landed in a Pakistani village near the Afghan border. Reports suggest Zawahiri survived the attack but four or five al-Qaeda operatives were killed along with eighteen civilians (Daily Times).

Targeted attacks of this nature, described by cfr.org's Eben Kaplan in a Background Q&A, have become an increasingly common tactic in the U.S.-led counterterrorism campaign. On Sunday, Aziz condemned the attack (AP), which he said was carried out without Pakistan's consent. The resulting angry protests (AP) and scathing news reports highlight 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) accentuate 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 and Bush are expected to discuss other areas in which the two nations can work together. The Pakistani newspaper Dawn suggests Aziz will try to win more foreign investment for his country's economy, which grew 8.4 percent last year. The Daily Times explains Pakistan would be willing to help Bush put pressure on Iran, but would ask for U.S. nuclear technology, especially after Washington's nuclear deal with India (PDF).

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