The Americans decide to get tougher
The final straw! Pakistani nationalists are beside themselves with rage at the US government’s reported new plan of linking aid to Pakistan with performance. Are we, they muse, to be treated now as some sort of wage labourers? Is international diplomacy to be reduced now to a pay-as-you-go commercial enterprise?
The American response to all this would be simpler: if Pakistan indeed does what it says it will, the newer “scoreboard” system isn’t going to yield lesser aid. These scorecards are going to be spread over four areas: Pakistani cooperation in exploiting the bin Laden compound; cooperation with the war in Afghanistan; cooperation with the US in conducting joint counter terrorism operations; and cooperation in the overall improvement in the tone of the ties. The first and the last of these are going to be somewhat simple. The government here has already given back the Americans the tail section of the helicopter downed in the Abbottabad operation. An improvement in the tone of the ties is going to be tougher but an easing up of visa restrictions to Americans is going to give the government way more than a passing grade.
It is the bits about the war in Afghanistan and joint operations in Pakistan that are going to be rather dicey. What could joint operations even be interpreted as? US boots on the ground? Not only would it be tough to swallow in a country with such high anti-American sentiment, we also need to be absolutely sure that everyone is on the same page about the concerned operation in the first place. By now it is clear that the Pakistan security establishment isn’t going to even consider an assault on safe havens in North Waziristan, which is topmost on the US wishlist.
As for the cooperation with the US efforts in Afghanistan is concerned, the US needs to understand that the Pakistanis, liberals and conservative nationalists alike, feel a bit suspicious at the plan to cut losses in Afghanistan and move out, all while conducting operations within the troubled south. Will Pakistan have a seat at the table in the post-US Afghan future?