By Teresita Schaffer

Pakistan and the United States have pursued an important partnership for the past decade, based on the premise that their strategic goals in Pakistan were the same.

This is at best only half true.

Both countries would like to see a peaceful and governable Afghanistan emerge from its current turmoil, and would like to see an Afghanistan capable of being a good neighbor in a troubled region. However, for the United States, eliminating Al Qaeda influence in Afghanistan ranks at least equal to the quest for a peaceful Afghanistan. And for Pakistan, a peaceful Afghanistan is a secondary goal. The primary one is preventing its perennial enemy, India, from having any significant influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan's leaders are looking beyond the time when the United States will be gone. Even as they work with the United States, providing important logistical support, they are also working with other partners in Afghanistan, including some who are in a shooting war with the United States.

In other words, the divergence in U.S. and Pakistani goals is a major problem, made much worse by several serious incidents in the past few months.

The most important of these is the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, which left the Pakistan army angry and embarrassed, and left the United States angry over Osama's presence in a Pakistani army town.

Under these circumstances, how could Pakistan possibly be a fully reliable U.S. ally?

Pakistanis are of course asking the same question about the United States. Both countries have reaped some benefit from the relationship, and neither wants to see it explode. They have had three marriages and two divorces over the last half century, however, and it will take enormous skill and some important policy adjustments to salvage a viable working relationship.


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