The United States and Pakistan are equal partners in the war on international terrorism. Both countries have recently seen a convergence of perception and interest in their bilateral relationship.
As the ties warmed up between the top military leadership, the intelligence chiefs of both countries expressed satisfaction at reaching a better level of understanding for coordinated military action against the Taliban on both sides of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is gratifying to learn that the tension, which had tainted the relationship after NATO’s military air strike killing several soldiers at the Pakistani military check post in November 2011 has been lowered to a near normal level.
The norms of diplomatic behavior, which raised hopes of a new cooperation, did not preclude Pakistan from protesting to the United States at the increasing frequency of the operations conducted on its territory with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles commonly known as the drone aircraft. Following are the policy perceptions of both countries on these military operations:
• The United States believes that in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the country and to save American lives, targeted strikes are carried out against specific Al-Qaeda targets in full accordance with the law.
• The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by the Congress after September 11th attacks authorized the President to use all appropriate forces against those nations, organizations and individuals responsible for 9/11 attacks.
• Targeted strikes conform to the principle of distinction, which means that only military objectives may be intentionally targeted. The strikes conform to the principle of proportionality, the notion that anticipated collateral damage of action cannot be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage and they conform to the principle of humanity, which requires the country to use weapons that will not inflict unnecessary suffering.
• Pakistan considers the drone strikes as illegal, counter-productive and against its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
• The issue of these military strikes is being discussed with the United States on a bilateral level.
• Both countries are engaged in discussing various proposals and hope to come up with a mutually acceptable solution.
According to Pakistan government officials an increase in the drone air strikes leads to immediate escalation of terrorist attacks by the Taliban militants on civilians inside Pakistan. This results in the loss of innocent lives as well as strengthens the hands of the militants who aim to incite anti-American public sentiment to derail the friendship between the two countries. On complex issues, the policy perceptions may differ but for preservation of peace in the region, patience and flexibility will lead to a long-term advantage. Establishment of security in this region will contribute to the security of the American homeland. In the wake of the anticipated U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, continuation of a meaningful cooperation, deepening of mutual understanding, recognition of each other’s national interest and establishment of an intelligence sharing mechanism between the United States and Pakistan will help to achieve their common ideals.
1. “The efficacy and ethics of U.S. counterterrorism strategy”, remarks by John O. Brennan, Assistant to the President on Homeland Security dated 7/19/2012.
2. “The News International,” Islamabad, dated 8/25/2012.