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Perfidious Pakistani-American Games

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
October 30, 2011
The Daily Beast


The U.S. military is "investigating" NATO's recent killing of some 24 Pakistani soldiers who might have been closing their eyes as usual to Taliban border attacks on U.S. forces. Pakistan is protesting this insult to its sovereignty by not showing up at next week's international conference on Afghanistan and shutting down the U.S. supply line. It's a crisis! Well, sort of. Which means that both Washington and Islamabad need to bash each other rhetorically for another week or so to placate domestic critics, then return to diplomacy, then simply wait for the political turmoil to settle down. That process always takes a while because of the political outrage in each country over the perceived treachery of the other. Only then can they happily resume their perfidious business as usual.

Expect these vicious games to continue. Islamabad won't stop giving sanctuary to the Taliban or killing American troops. That's how Islamabad retains its influence in Afghanistan. And Washington won't stop attacking the Taliban on Pakistani territory because that's how it must protect its troops in Afghanistan.

Managing this clash of interests is what professionals call foreign policy. Just remember the soaring confrontation of only months ago, when President Obama felt sure that Osama bin Laden was hiding in the Pakistani military parlor and invaded Pakistani soil to kill him. Both sides were furious—the American side because the Pakistanis were harboring our worst enemy; the Pakistanis because they got caught. Two tense weeks ensued while leaders all around demonstrated their anger. Now calls resound once more to break relations.

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