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WikiLeaks' Fallout for U.S.-Pakistan Ties

Interviewees: Shuja Nawaz, Director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council of the United States
Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Interviewer: Jayshree Bajoria, Staff Writer, CFR.org
July 30, 2010

The classified U.S. military documents related to the war in Afghanistan leaked by WikiLeaks.org paint a grim picture of collusion between Pakistan's intelligence service, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and members of the Afghan Taliban. While the allegations laid out in the documents--that the ISI supports Taliban insurgents fighting U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan--may not be new, they exacerbated strains in U.S.-Pakistan relations. In Pakistan, the allegations feed a growing paranoia that the leaks are part of a "conspiracy aimed at damaging the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship, which is in a nascent stage, as well as the U.S.-Pakistan relationship," says Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.

In the United States, the allegations will raise "new question marks in the American public, the American media, and the American Congress about the reliability of our Pakistani partner," says Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution. However, the Obama administration understands "this relationship is absolutely vital not just to the stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan but to the stability of all of South and Central Asia," says Riedel, who also chaired the review of U.S. policy on Pakistan and Afghanistan for the administration in 2009.

The United States has given more than $11 billion in aid to Pakistan since 2001, most of it to the Pakistani army in return for its cooperation in fighting terrorism. But while some critics say Washington fails to use this to pressure Islamabad to break ties with militant groups, Riedel says pressure has been largely ineffective, and "engagement is the only viable policy option."

Riedel adds the United States should focus on a policy that seeks to stabilize the relationship and establish trust, notably that Washington should lower tariffs on Pakistani imports to the United States.


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