3rd Presidential Debate: Obama Killed Bin Laden, But Repairing US Relations With Pakistan Remains an Issue


At Monday's presidential debate on foreign policy, President Obama and Mitt Romney will grapple over Middle East policy, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Arab Spring. The President is likely to tout his accomplishment of killing Osama bin Laden, but the issue of Pakistan may come up front and center if he does. What should the candidates keep in mind if Pakistan comes up at the debate on Monday?

For live coverage of the presidential foreign policy debate on Monday, including real-time analysis and coverage, see here.

Since the killing of Osama bin Laden, U.S.-Pakistani relations have suffered many setbacks, and now both sides appear to be at odds. The latest rough patch between the two countries only makes matters worse, as the U.S. is suspending some $800 million in aid to the Pakistani Military. The U.S. has just recently recovered from their “drug-dependency” to Pakistan following the May raid, and it may take some time for the U.S. to regain the trust in Pakistan enough to aid the continued war on terrorism. But will aid cutbacks repair the relationship? Simply put, no. The U.S. needs to reevaluate their relationship with Pakistan as well as redistribute their aid to areas besides military spending.

In this tricky aid conundrum, Pakistan is playing the role of a drug dealer. The U.S. needs Pakistan as a strategic ally in the war on terror, thus providing endless amounts of aid over the years. Unfortunately, the demand of product has been far too high for Pakistan to deliver and as a result the product continues to fall short of expectations. 

The “drug” in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is the fight against terrorism. With the most wanted man out of the picture, thanks in no part to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the U.S. has become very weary of giving taxpayer dollars to Pakistan to help control Islamic militants. Also, in light of a recent killing allegedly sanctioned by the Pakistani military, the U.S. is unsure whether Pakistan is playing both sides, leaving their allegiance still unclear. The U.S. desperately wants to make a case to support and keep Pakistan as an ally; however, the U.S. constantly has to go the extra mile to ensure that the job is being done. 

Sadly, the U.S. keeps coming back to Pakistan in hopes of seeing progress in the war on terror. The U.S. has been a longtime supporter of Pakistani militancy and has spoken in favor of the country because of the leaderships’ willingness to work together to help put an end to terrorism. As a result, the U.S. keeps funding a hopeless cause falling victim in this scenario.

Clearly, aid cutbacks are not the solution to the problem. Though, Obama’s administration is heading in the right direction, finally realizing that our relationship with Pakistan needs to be reevaluated. Pakistan clearly needs the backing of a strong nation to continue to develop their country, while the U.S. needs a strategic ally in the region as the war on terror slowly winds down. Both parties need each other because of years of dependency; however, the relationship needs to be balanced out. 

A possible solution would be for the Obama administration to not cut back on aid but instead, allocate funds to civilian projects. Isobel Coleman of the Council on Foreign Relations reports, that nearly two thirds of the aid given to Pakistan this year was spent on the military. This money is being wasted, as it would be far more beneficial investing in developing the country’s economy, than spending money on the ISI or military programs that have yet to pay dividends.

For live coverage of the presidential foreign policy debate on Monday, including real-time analysis and coverage, see here.