America's rocky relations with Pakistan were the focus of a meeting at the White House last week between Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and President Obama.
Pakistan has nuclear weapons and technology, which it sometimes exports, and a perpetually volatile internal situation. It endures separatist-oriented activity in some regions.
Mr. Sharif’s government has made a successful post-election transition from a civilian administration. More commonly, Pakistan has changed governments through military coups d’etat.
The United States values Pakistan’s close relationship with China as a channel to that country. But Pakistan’s handling of nuclear technology hampers U.S. pursuit of nonproliferation to states such as Iran and North Korea. Pakistan has not signed the global nonproliferation treaty.
The withdrawal of U.S. forces and equipment from Afghanistan, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014, would occur most efficiently through Pakistan. The Pakistanis see the process, in part, as a money-maker and a pressure point.
The Taliban, the principal challenger to Hamid Karzai’s government in Kabul, operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Negotiations to end the Afghan war will inevitably involve Pakistan.
The most painful aspect of U.S.-Pakistan relations is America’s use of drones to kill Taliban and other purported enemies on Pakistani territory. Politicians, including Mr. Sharif, condemn the practice, which has killed scores of civilians and caused outrage in Pakistan. Media reports say Pakistani authorities are aware of and authorize the attacks.
The United States released another $1.5 billion in aid to Pakistan before Mr. Sharif’s visit. Pakistan will remain a difficult if needed partner as long as America seeks influence in the region.
Current U.S. policy is necessary and correct. But it will require review in 2015, after the Afghanistan exit is completed.