By Tray Wetherell
With the death of Osama Bin-Laden in the affluent neighborhood north of Islamabad, serious questions remain as to whether or not Pakistan has been the ally it always claimed to be to the United States. Living in a compound that was roughly the size of six football fields, the mansion and surrounding security apparatus that included a 15 foot barb wire topped wall was built in 2005, surrounded by government land and close to the national military academy of Pakistan. Pakistani officials for years had denied that Bin-Laden was in Pakistan, and Pakistani intelligence officials claimed that their evidence pointed to Bin-Laden still being in Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials were not notified of the operation in advance out of security concerns. However there is speculation that Pakistan was aware of the operation, but due to domestic concerns could not acknowledge it. “With reprisal threats announced over the internet, and with a domestic population at odds with U.S. drone operations and cross border raids, Pakistan is in no position to admit collusion with any military operation being done within its borders.” A state department source quoted by CNN said.
At times a tenuous relationship, Pakistan became an ally of the United States during the cold war when India, Pakistan’s chief rival, became a tentative ally of the Soviet Union. Governed almost exclusively by military rule with short bursts of democratic civilian rule, the United States supported these rulers in order to achieve détente in the Indian Sub-Continent against the Soviet Union. These military regimes were iron fisted against its own population and created resentment against the United States.
After 9-11, the United States received assurances from Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, that Pakistan was a supporter in the war against terrorism and Al-Qaeda. Billions of dollars of U.S. support flowed into Pakistan, but it is unclear as to how effective this foreign aid was in helping bring terrorists to justice. In recent years as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wore on, Pakistan/U.S. relations started to cool. After the assassination of presidential candidate Benazir Bhutto in 2008, relations worsened further. Signs of collusion between Islamic extremists, the Taliban and Pakistani intelligence services that included hiding and supporting terrorists who were then crossing over the border to attack in Afghanistan, forced the United States to cross over into Pakistan attacking these safe havens with the use of predator drone air-strikes.
It is unclear as to whether or not Pakistan’s weak democratically elected government can remain an ally of the U.S. when public sentiment is against the U.S., largely due to U.S. military action in northern Pakistan’s tribal regions. With the death of Osama Bin-Laden, however, there could be hope that the end of this long chapter in U.S. history could be coming to an end.