The killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 02 in the heart of Pakistan by a Navy Seal team exposed the deep mistrust that lies between Washington and Islamabad.
Pakistan was shocked not by the finding of world’s number one terrorist in a mansion near its military headquarters, but by the fact that the US did not even bother to inform Islamabad of the raid. Pakistan, which has persistently denied allegations that its ISI is colluding with insurgents, is finding it difficult to convince the US to continue its financial aid.
In an exclusive interview with Kamna Arora of Zeenews.com, an internationally acclaimed writer, Reza Aslan, discusses the difficult but necessary relationship between the US and Pakistan.
Reza Aslan is author of international bestseller No god but God as well as Beyond Fundamentalism and Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East.
Kamna: What is the status of already fractious ties between the US and Pakistan?
Reza: Relations between the US and Pakistan are as strained as they have ever been. Indeed, there are powerful voices in both countries calling for a complete severing of ties. This is understandable as each country has reason to be distrustful of the other. But it would be a colossal mistake for Pakistan and the United States to give in to these voices and give up on each other.
Kamna: Do you think US’ pressure and embarrassment post Osama’s killing will push Islamabad to improve efforts in fighting extremism?
Reza: It doesn`t seem to have done so yet. In fact, it is difficult to say that the Pakistani military and ISI are all that embarrassed about not knowing bin Laden was in their backyard.
Kamna: Can the US afford to sever ties with Pakistan? What could be the possible consequences if that happens?
Reza: The US has invested a great deal in Pakistan and relies on its ally to secure the border in Afghanistan and help monitor the activities of Taliban and al Qaeda militants in the North West Frontier Province. It would be a huge blow to the so-called war on terror if the US loses Pakistan as an ally.
Kamna: Can India benefit from US-Pakistan tensions?
Reza: India is desperate to wean the US from its relationship with Pakistan and a few more Pakistani-inspired terror attacks in the subcontinent just might do the trick.
Kamna: Can the tensions between US and Pakistan affect Washington’s planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan?
Reza: Abandoning Pakistan now would reverse what gains the United States has made in the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda over the last decade. The Taliban already has an unsteady foothold in the Pakistani region of Waziristan, and there is reason to believe that the new head of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, may be hiding there. Withdrawing economic and military support would no doubt allow these militant groups to gain more ground in the country.