Long touted as the one irreplaceable ally in the US global war on terror, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was defiant on the ever worsening relationship with Pakistan today, saying the the US is “reaching the limits of our patience” with the nation.
Panetta couched the US “anger” at Pakistan in the terms of their long-standing demands that Pakistan launch an offensive against North Waziristan, insisting that the site remains a “safe haven” for terrorist groups to launch attacks into Afghanistan.
On that count, both Afghanistan and Pakistan have had beefs with the other side, as militant factions operate freely across both sides of the rugged border. For every strike into Afghanistan staged from the Pakistani tribal areas, Pakistan can cite a similar strike against Bajaur or Peshawar that came from militants in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province.
This is, of course, only part of the issue, and the real changes in the US-Pakistan relationship have been in relation to the closed border crossings, and negotiations in which Panetta accused Pakistan of trying to “price gouge” the US, as well as Pakistan’s growing public criticism of the US drone strikes pounding their tribal areas.
Indeed, between the Raymond Davis fiasco, the constant drone strikes and the November US attack which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, one must marvel that Pakistan isn’t simultaneously “reaching the limits” of its own patience with the US, particularly as massive anti-US protests conducted regularly in Pakistan make it a core issue in their next election.
Still, Panetta’s position seems to be well supported among the US political class. During a debate last night on BBC Radio 5, high profile neo-con Richard Perle told me that “I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the Pakistanis in this situation,” citing the recent Pakistani decision to sentence a CIA doctor for “high treason” for conducting a phony vaccination program aimed at collecting the DNA of children in Pakistan. The US Senate revoked some aid from Pakistan for this same reason, arguing that without the covert program, Osama bin Laden would never have been successfully assassinated.