The latest friendly fire incident in Pakistan has plunged the already strained relationship between the United States and Pakistan to a new low.
The feud between the U.S. and Pakistan over the U.S.-led NATO cross-border airstrikes that killed at least 24 Pakistani troops on Nov. 27, should prompt Washington to reflect upon its relationship with Islamabad and its anti-terror strategy in South Asia.
While the U.S. has offered its condolences to Pakistan and the families of those killed, this has not been enough to quell Islamabad’s fury.
In retaliation, the South Asian country has shut off NATO supply routes to Afghanistan and ordered the U.S. to vacate one of the air bases that is used by U.S. intelligence forces to launch drone attacks against militants in Pakistan.
Given that the deaths were at the hands of an ally, Pakistan’s anger is justified and the U.S. owes Pakistan a thorough investigation and genuine explanation. It also needs to ensure that such a tragedy will not happen again.
It is also necessary for the U.S. to rethink its anti-terror strategy in the region. True, the U.S. needs to hunt down as many extremists in the region as possible before it winds down its operations in Afghanistan. But it should keep its military operations within international norms.
If Washington still sees strategic importance in its relations with Islamabad and wants its cooperation in Afghanistan, it should make greater efforts to prevent bilateral ties deteriorating further.
However, some voices heard in the US after the incident indicate there is no guarantee that Washington is willing to do more to mend its fences with Islamabad.
If such a perspective becomes the mainstream in U.S. policy toward Pakistan, both its cooperation with Pakistan and its own interests in the region will suffer.
China Today, Beijing (Dec. 1)