May 17, 2011: Two weeks after the “Abbottabad incident,” as the raid that killed Osama bin Laden is being called in Pakistan, the United States and Pakistan increasingly look as if they are moving toward a break. Neither seems prepared to agree to the other side’s public demands. Such a “third divorce” between Washington and Islamabad is not yet inevitable. Rather than trying to put back together an open-ended relationship that is undermined by the strategic gap between the two partners, we believe they should focus on concrete goals and specific operating guidelines that both can honor.
In the wake of Abbottabad, both sides are angry. In the United States, the focus is on bin Laden. NSC Adviser Thomas Donilon said that he had seen “no evidence” that senior Pakistani leaders knowingly sheltered bin Laden, but that leaves unstated the agonizing question – who did know, and what unwritten guidance did they have? On the Pakistani side, Prime Minister Gilani on May 3 referred to the death of bin Laden as a “great victory.” By the next day, the Foreign Ministry was expressing “deep concern.” Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif excoriated the violation of sovereignty involved in the raid. In the media, the stress, increasingly, is on how Pakistan is suffering from “America’s war.”