The relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan has almost always been termed as crucial. It has also been characterized as complicated because of the mistrust on both sides. The question is, why is there so much suspicion? Is it just because of the difference of interests, that the U.S. wants to do one thing while Pakistan another or is it more than that? So far, the reports that have surfaced suggest the latter. The difference of opinion of the people running the war on terror -- on both sides -- has resulted in a tumultuous relationship.
Even if the U.S. and Pakistan were on the same page on how best to combat terrorism, conflicting and false interpretations of history don't help. Pakistanis do try to twist the facts in their own favor to boost hatred against the United States. Their reason is primarily based on America's decision to abandon Pakistan after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan. They are now not ready to budge. This can easily be overcome if the U.S. comes clean about all their operations against the militants. They need to share their plans with their allies, especially Pakistani politicans and the people, instead of dealing solely with the military and carrying out covert operations. Did Pakistan agree with the U.S. to use drone strikes or not? If there was an agreement -- verbal or written -- the U.S. should share that information. This one point can help the U.S. gain trust and would go a long way towards eliminating biases and mistrust over the use of drones.
Americans need to know truth about this war too. They need to understand why Pakistan is an ally and how it can help the U.S. negotiate with the Afghan Taliban. This could only happen once the big shots in Washington jettison their version of the war story and keep their facts straight.
Here's an example. Richard Clarke -- a long time security expert who served four presidents and was the chief counter-terrorism advisor for the National Security Council was on Bill Maher's show blatantly accusing Pakistan of creating the Afghan Taliban to fight India.
If someone like Clarke, who has been the decision maker on security issues, is way off the mark, then the outcome of this war could be disastrous.
The Taliban in Afghanistan was an indigenous movement formed to counter the Northern Alliance. The Taliban movement was primarily made up of Pashtun tribesmen, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. Their purpose was to counter the Northern Alliance's corrupt government. In 1994 and 1995, the Pakistan government was tasked by the U.S. to support the Taliban to restore law and order in Afghanistan and facilitate the construction of UNOCAL's oil and gas pipeline projects.
The U.S. once again used the Taliban and Pakistan government in its favor just like it used the mujahideen. And like before, things got out of hand. Al- Qaeda became enemies of the U.S. The Taliban eventually backed al-Qaeda, which went on to terrorize the world.
The Taliban government proceeded to impose their brutal interpretation of sharia law on the country. Initially, the U.S. supported the Taliban, hoping they would restore order to a country ravaged by the war against the Soviets.
After 9/11, the U.S. wasted 10 years, billions of dollars and thousands of lives. It blamed the Pakistan army for supporting the Afghan Taliban while at the same time attempting to secretly strike a deal with the Taliban. Either you blame and squabble or join hands and find a solution. Like the expression goes, you can't have your cake and eat it too.
In the meantime, the U.S. also supported former members of the Northern Alliance and warlords without considering that there cannot be peace in Afghanistan until the Pashtun Afghans get their fair share to rule the country. Even now, a large number of Afghan police and army trained by the U.S. and NATO forces are made up of non-Pashtuns. If the Pashtuns get their way and are included in such projects, discrimination does not let them survive for long. The Pashtuns complain that the Northern Alliance has monopolized important ministry positions, governorships, and embassy postings abroad.
Years later, the U.S. is back to square one, without having learned the lesson that there is no military solution to Afghanistan and Pakistan problem.
The U.S. needs to gain the trust of the people of Pakistan. It needs to realize that Pakistan's army is not the same as Pakistan. The U.S. needs to ally with the politicians and support democratic institutions instead of men in uniform. The best way to wash off the mistrust is to engage the population and invest in education rather than in arm deals. The Saudis build schools that children can attend for free. The result? In many cases, extremist madrassahs become the only educational option. Why not invest in teaching children how to read?
It needs to negotiate and cut deals with the same Taliban back in Afghanistan. The efforts to achieve peace will be in vain until the U.S. considers Pakistan's position, keeps its facts straight, brings the truth out in the open and accepts its share of blame. The solution to the Afghan problem cannot be reached until all the facts are understood and all the parties involved are on board.