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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pakistan-U.S. Relations: A Summary

K. Alan Kronstadt
Specialist in South Asian Affairs

This report summarizes important recent developments in Pakistan and in Pakistan-U.S. relations. These include high-profile political assassinations in early 2011; the Raymond Davis affair involving a CIA operative accused of murder in the city of Lahore; and the May killing of Osama bin Laden in the city of Abbottabad, among others. The report also summarizes key issues in the bilateral relationship. Recent Obama Administration engagement with Pakistan is discussed and the current status of Pakistan-U.S. relations is briefly analyzed. Other key issues include links between Pakistan and indigenous American terrorism; Islamist militancy in Pakistan and Islamabad’s policies toward the Afghan insurgency; Pakistan’s relations with historic rival India; nuclear weapons proliferation and security in Pakistan; and the status of Pakistan’s economic and political settings. Human rights concerns are briefly summarized, and the report closes with discussion of U.S. foreign assistance to Pakistan.

A stable, democratic, prosperous Pakistan actively combating religious militancy is considered vital to U.S. interests. U.S. concerns regarding Pakistan include regional and global terrorism; efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan; nuclear weapons proliferation; the Kashmir problem and Pakistan-India tensions; democratization and human rights protection; and economic development. Pakistan is praised by U.S. leaders for its post-2001 cooperation with U.S.-led counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts, although long-held doubts exist about Islamabad’s commitment to some core U.S. interests. A mixed record on battling Islamist extremism includes ongoing apparent tolerance of Taliban elements operating from its territory. May 2011 revelations that Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden had found apparently years-long refuge inside Pakistan has led to intensive U.S. government scrutiny of the now deeply troubled bilateral relationship. Anti-American sentiments and xenophobic conspiracy theories remain rife among ordinary Pakistanis. Pakistan’s troubled economic conditions and precarious political setting combine with perilous security circumstances and a history of difficult relations with neighbors to also present serious challenges to U.S. decision makers.

Islamist extremism and militancy in Pakistan is a central U.S. foreign policy concern. Its arguably growing influence hinders progress toward key U.S. goals, including the defeat of Al Qaeda and other anti-U.S. terrorist groups, Afghan stabilization, and resolution of the historic Pakistan-India rivalry that threatens the entire region’s stability and that has a nuclear dimension. Long-standing worries that American citizens have been recruited and employed in Islamist terrorism by Pakistan-based elements have become more acute. Bilateral distrust has peaked since the death of bin Laden, with some in Congress openly calling for the curtailment or significant reduction of U.S. foreign assistance to Pakistan, a country among the leading recipients of such aid, having been appropriated more than $20 billion in assistance and military reimbursements since 2001. For broader discussion, see CRS Report R41307, Pakistan: Key Current Issues and Developments, by K. Alan Kronstadt.

Date of Report: May 16, 2011
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R41832
Price: $29.95

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