Administration officials did not respond Monday to Pakistani demands for an apology for the cross-border U.S. airstrike that killed at least 24 Pakistani soldiers early Saturday. Instead, they expressed condolences for the loss of life while saying that the facts about what happened were under investigation.
Properly placing the blame for this is important, but it isn't going to change the fact that our relations with the Pakistanis are on a rapid downward trend. You can argue about whether they should be our allies at all, and I would agree that is an open question. But currently we are losing even the semblance of alliance and cooperation for which we have been shipping all those satchels of cash to them.
We had the CIA contractor shooting a couple of civilians (likely trying to rob or kidnap him), then of course the bin Laden excursion and now a couple of dozen of their soldiers dead. All in all we will have a tough time bouncing back from this, especially as they know we are pulling out of Afghanistan for all intents and purposes.
So you get back to that most basic question, does it matter if the Pakistanis are our "friends"? In one word yes, in another explanatory word, nukes. They have them, we don't want them spreading them around, so we pay them and deal with all the ancillary back stabbing and double and triple dealing. All of the talk about not allowing the region to be a haven for terrorists etc is true, but absent those little atomic wonders, we would not be taking the crap we do.
So feel free to call for an end to this charade of an alliance and our efforts to create some sort of stable governance in the region. But understand that we cannot escape the need to keep as wary an eye as possible on the folks with their fingers on nuclear triggers.
Bing West comments at NRO
The description in the New York Times today of Pakistan-based assassination squads operating in eastern Afghanistan is disturbing. It is further evidence of how difficult it is to prevail in a war when your neighbor next door provides a sanctuary for the insurgents. Another press story quoted an American official as whining that “we were just starting to crawl back” from the Pakistani reaction to the killing on their soil of Osama bin Laden.
The administration has to adopt a tough, transactional negotiating posture with Pakistan.
— Bing West is author of The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan.