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The U.S. and Pakistan still have some trust issues

The top U.S. and Pakistani officials who gathered in Washington this week for a grand “strategic dialogue” took turns patting each other on the back. And with good reason. They have made gains in nearly every dimension of a relationship that has been plagued by public suspicion on both sides.

But it would be a mistake to read this display as an indication that the trust issues have been resolved. Indeed, top officials of two U.S. intelligence agencies said essentially the same thing in separate communications: For all the important tactical changes the Pakistanis have made mobilizing their sometimes chaotic government to combat the Taliban insurgency, this won’t be a truly strategic partnership until the army takes decisive action against its key long-time ally in Afghanistan, the Haqqani network, and closes down the safe haven from which it operates in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

This is the “trust but verify” detail of the U.S.-Pakistan rapprochement, reminiscent of the U.S.-Soviet détente. American officials say that with their advanced intelligence-collections systems, they are in a position to monitor Pakistani contacts with Haqqani operatives. When there is a decisive move to cut them off, the U.S. will see and verify it. At that point, in the minds of the U.S. intelligence chiefs, the strategic shift will truly have taken place and the real celebration can begin.

Much of the discussion during this week’s U.S.-Pakistan festival was devoted to the future framework of a post-war Afghanistan. The Pakistanis articulately shared their analysis that Afghanistan’s geography, culture and history make a strong central government in Kabul unlikely. So what would a weaker government look like, and how would it avoid sliding back into the warlordism of recent decades? Those are questions officials on both sides will be mulling in coming weeks.

My guess is that part of the reason the Pakistanis have resisted American pleas for a total crackdown on the Haqqani network is that they believe peace negotiations will fail in Afghanistan unless they include all parties to the conflict -- including elements of the fearsome Haqqani group.

But here’s an encouraging note: The Pakistanis also seem to believe there’s a U.S.-powered peace train chugging toward Kabul, and it was clear this week that nobody wants to be the last on board the train, once it begins to gather momentum.

By David Ignatius  | March 26, 2010; 1:57 PM ET
Categories:  Ignatius  | Tags:  David Ignatius  
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To my mind, "trust but verify" is the exactly the right attitude and position to take with Pakistan, I am very pleased with the Obama Administration's team approach to Pakistan. They are giving them the full respect they deserve because they really are the central player.
How Pakistan goes, so goes the region. Afghanistan is now, and will probably be in the future, utterly unable to govern themselves without a huge support from other countries, namely us.
Meaning that Pakistan's dreams of ruling Kashmir, with Afghanistan in their back pocket, will be leveraged against US.
So, it is very much in our own interest to try and get Pakistan to realize a few of our own goals.

Posted by: cms1 | March 26, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: seraphina2 | March 26, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

"Meaning that Pakistan's dreams of ruling Kashmir, with Afghanistan in their back pocket, will be leveraged against US.
So, it is very much in our own interest to try and get Pakistan to realize a few of our own goals."Posted by: cms1

cms1 You have got to be kidding or just another blockhead that blogs here. Do you seriously believe Pakistan can 'rule' Kashmir without so much as a scratch from India? Do you know where Pakistan is in relation to India? India has bulk of Kashmir. One is a huge democracy with nuclear arms, defence almost as large as China's. Pakistan is a silly little puppy just wanting to equate itself with an elephant. Get yourself informed before you blog nonsense here.

Posted by: hughes_168 | March 26, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Mr Ignitius is a paid employee of the CIA. Nothing he writes is to be believed. His presence on these pages is an attempt to manufacture consent.

Posted by: kuvasz | March 27, 2010 12:00 AM | Report abuse

I totally agree with hughes_168. There is no comparison between India and Pakistan. One is great thriving democracy and Pakistan a great beggar always sitting with strech hands looking for crumbs from Washington. One is a Elephant and other is Vulture depends upon left over food. Pakistanies are expert in how to go with begging bowl. One has selfrespect and dignity and Pakistan is crying baby.

Posted by: udhoram | March 27, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse

I am loath to join issues with anyone. In my view I will have made a contribution if I succeed in attracting attention to some of the facts of the situation and leave everyone to form his or her own views. The facts, testified to by US sources, are that Pakistan itself has been using terror as an instrument of its foreign and other policies for some 20 to 30 years. (That takes us back to almost 1980 when the Soviets had just moved into Afghanistan and when Pakistan was ruled by Ziaul Haq.) In that phase of Islamization within Pakistan the leaders and elites of Pakistan were witness to the progressive drift into Islamism which has by now become the bane of Islamic societies everywhere. It would have been all right if leaders had opted to work for the spread of Islam, but, no, they chose to work for Islamism, with cries like 'Islam in danger' and 'Back to Islam and Quran', by which they meant no more than what is now known as the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam and sharia. Pakistan's rulers continued to use its fundamentalists against Afghanistan in the first phase, then against Punjab (India) and eventually against Kashmir and other parts of India. This is what Pakistan wants to go on doing - in the hope that the rest of the world, especially US, may be induced and alarmed into thinking that a nuclear Armageddon in South Asia was about to happen if Kashmir were not handed over to Pakistan by India on a silver salver. All Pakistan's policies from the moment of its birth have been geared to this objective. There is no doubt, however, that, in view of the disparity of resources and power between Pakistan and India, Pakistan cannot hope to win against India under any conditions. I allow no exceptions in this statement.
V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, Mar 27 2010, 0950 IST,

Posted by: vineycb1 | March 27, 2010 12:21 AM | Report abuse

Some of the opinions expressed seem to be indulging in hyperbole. Pakistan is no beggar or vulture. What Pakistan is, is a lychpin for regional security. If Pakistan goes down the failed-state tube, can India (with all her relative might) be too far behind? Furhter, the geo-political calculations miss the support Pakistan gets from Saudia and China, while India has thrown it's lot with the US which will be a refree in this contest and at best a neutral. This is not the slam dunk it is presented to be. Let's face it, we need a stable and strong Pakistan. If this takes a few $ of my taxes, money well spent.

Posted by: kas1201 | March 27, 2010 1:35 AM | Report abuse

Our lack of trust is based on three facts.
First, we have a relationship with India,and any friend of India is an enemy of Pakistan.
Second,the use of Pakistan as a staging area for the Taliban and their allies makes them suspect.It'sa shame everyone uses the maps created by Europeans and does not rely upon the on the ground citizens who are tied by tribal rules,not national rules..

Lastly,the trust between Iran and Pakistan has completely or will completely break down as further attacks against Pakistan's army and intelligence network can be traced back directly to the Revolutionary Army in Tehran.It would a very great surprise if Pakistan did not attack Tehran by air and ground within the next year.

Posted by: TarheelChief | March 27, 2010 1:56 AM | Report abuse

To get Pakistan to stop cutting its own throat while attacking the world, will take a fundamental change in national goals by the Pakistan body politic.
-- Pakistan firmly believes it has a right to rule kashmir, whether the Kashmiris want this or no.
-- To accomplish this Pakistan believes it has a right to employ Lashkar-e Tayybah in a State Terrorism mode.
-- It believes LT will ultimately provoke another war with India.
-- This means the Pak military gets an automatic stranglehold on the Pak budget.
-- And, to win or at least hold the expected Indian attack about 20 years ago the genuises on the Pak staff came up with a concept they called "strategic depth"....The Pak army will retreat up the Bolan and Khyber Passes into the Dasht-e Margo, the Desert of Death and maneuver against the Indian invaders. (if that sounds bizarre, remember this is Pakistan)
-- Ergo Pakistan needs a weak Afghanistan it dominates and needs to control the territory up to the Hindu Kush.
-- Therefore, return again to Pakistan's always handy use of State Terrorism; It will fund these murderers, no matter how many Bhutto's its pets blow up, or how many Pak civilians they kill.
-- And if they attack the world from Pakistan? Well the world deserves it. The world isn't Muslim.
-- And on top of that, if Afghanistan had a strong government it might claim the Pashtun areas of Pakistan beyond the Durrand line up to the Indus and Baluchistan down to the Indian Ocean.

Yes...all of the above is real. Add to it the fact that Pakistan hates the whole world...,

Yep, Pakistan makes "Alice-in-wonderland" seem hopelessly normal. So America had better keep its hand on its wallet when meeting these "gentlemen." Putting a resolution before the UN condemning Pakistan for State Terrorism and issuing warrants for a number of their officers for state terrorism murder will also put those crazies on notice that the world will no longer put up with their madness.

Posted by: wjc1va | March 27, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

It's called having predators, special secret contractors, and a giant CIAbasy in your country and feeding them enough bs to keep them busy while they are being a nosy neighbor.

Posted by: Wildthing1 | March 27, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Look Pakistan bashers here! this country, with all its follies, is not what is being portrayed it to be. A country, fighting for its own survival, can hardly have worldly ambitions. People tend to forget the negative role played by its so-called friends and allies over the years in framing what it is today. And, few words for India lovers, no doubt Indians are great people but as far as democracy goes what greatness about it when more than half of its parliament consists of members having criminal history! As for Kashmir, it has been and will remain on UN agenda as a disputed territory unless resolved as per the aspirations of the Kashmiris, simple!!

Posted by: majawaid | March 30, 2010 3:06 AM | Report abuse

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