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Pakistan–United States relations

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Pakistani-American relations
Map indicating locations of Pakistan and United States


United States
Diplomatic mission
Embassy of Pakistan, Washington, D.C.Embassy of the United States, Islamabad
Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Masood KhanAmerican Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome

Pakistan and the United States established relations on 15 August 1947, a day after the independence of Pakistan, when the United States became one of the first nations to recognize the country.

The relationship between the two nations has been described as a "roller coaster" characterized by close coordination and lows marked by deep bilateral estrangement.[1] Despite the troubled history, the Pakistani military once occupied an important place in American geopolitical strategy,[2] and has been a major non-NATO ally since 2002.[3][4] After Pakistan's participation in the Afghan peace process and the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in 2021, a sizeable number of US policy makers are revisiting the United States' relations with Pakistan.[5][6] At the same time, the strategic convergence of the United States and India has also brought greater pressure on Pakistani diplomacy.[7]

The conflicts sharply soured the public opinion in both nations, with public opinion of each nation ranking the other as one of the least favored countries in 2013.[8][9] As of 2014, 59% of Pakistanis consider the United States to be an enemy, reduced from 74% in 2012.[10][11][12] The Pakistanis have the least favorable view of US compared with 39 countries in the world surveyed by Pew.[13] US favorability has ranged between 10% (2002) to 23% (2005) in Pakistan between 1999 and 2013.[14] A Gallup poll showed that more than 72% of Pakistanis thought the United States was an enemy rather than a friend of Pakistan.[15]


During the Cold War (1945–1991), Pakistan allied itself with the Western Bloc led by the United States against the Eastern Bloc led by the Soviet Union. Following the 1958 Pakistani military coup, president Muhammad Ayub Khan established a strong military alliance with the United States. During the Bangladesh Liberation War and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the United States aided Pakistan against the Provisional Government of Bangladesh and India. After the Pakistani defeat, Pakistan's leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, an anti-American, improved relations with the Soviets. In 1977, Bhutto was overthrown in a military coup led by Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan and the United States cooperated in the funding and financing of the anti-communist Afghan mujahideen and then in the ensuing First Afghan Civil War. The United States has imposed sanctions on Pakistan on various occasions to force Pakistan to comply with its strategic interests since 1965,[16] with Pakistan's willingness to participate with the United States in the wars in Somalia and Bosnia, relations improved. However, the United States again suspended aid and imposed sanctions along with India in 1998, only to be lifted once again with the United States engagement in Afghanistan in 2001. Factors involving in the contingency operations, distrust, and different priorities of both nations in the Afghan War led to serious criticism as both sides began to criticize each other's strategy to achieve common goals in the War on Terror. The United States continues to blame Pakistan's military for supporting non-state actors, including the Taliban.[5] Furthermore, drone strikes by both nations, a friendly fire incident at Salala, and an incident involving the arrest of a spy in Lahore further complicated relations.

Former PM Imran Khan and Donald Trump during 2019 UNGA.
In 2021, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told the Pakistani government, “We don’t see ourselves building a broad relationship with Pakistan, and we have no interest in returning to the days of hyphenated India-Pakistan,” she added. “That’s not where we are. That’s not where we’re going to be.”[17][18]

Third-Party factors in Pakistan–U.S. relations[edit]

The U.S.'s troubled relationship with Pakistan continues to be eroded by crisis after crisis.[19] It has been alleged that the ISI of Pakistan pays journalists to write articles hostile to the United States in the early 2010s.[20] Despite this, both Pakistan and the United States continue to seek a productive relationship to defeat terrorist organizations in the War on Terror.[21] But in recent years, "Islamabad has arguably lost some of its strategic significance in the West following the US/NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan".[22] Pakistan once provided NATO with a supply route to Afghanistan, a link that dominated bilateral relations during the war. However, with the end of the war and the withdrawal of US troops from the region in the early 2020s, Pakistan's influence on the US disappeared and the US no longer needed it to engage with Afghanistan.[23]

Pakistan's decades-long rivalry and conflict with U.S. strategic partner India in the context of Kashmir and all-weather strategic cooperation with China in the context of great power competition between the United States and China poses difficulties for the country's efforts to improve relations with the United States.[24][25][26][27]


There are an estimated 554,202 self-identified Pakistani Americans living in the United States[28][29] and about 52,486 Americans residing in Pakistan.[30] In addition, Pakistan also hosts one of the largest embassies of the United States in Islamabad, and the largest consulate-general, in terms of both personnel and facilities, in the city of Karachi.


1947–1958: Relations between the United States and the newly-independent state[edit]

Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan meeting President Harry Truman.

Following Pakistan's creation from the British Indian Empire, the nascent state struggled to position itself as a non-aligned member of the international community. Pakistan's pro-communist forces commanded considerable support in East Pakistan, while in West Pakistan, the pro-Soviet Pakistan Socialist Party remained largely marginalized. The pro-American Pakistan Muslim League dominated much of West Pakistan's political landscape, particularly in the prosperous region of Punjab, while its base of support in East Pakistan was far more modest.

Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, however, attempted to establish friendly relations with both the Soviet Union and the United States in hopes that Pakistan could benefit from an alliance with both superpowers. Both the Military of Pakistan and Foreign Service of Pakistan raised doubts as to whether the Soviets had the political will and capacity to provide military, technical, and economic aid to a similar degree that they had begun to offer to Pakistan's socialist neighbor, India.[31] Pakistan nevertheless requested military aid from the USSR, which was predictably rebuffed as the Soviet Union had previously oriented itself with India.[31] The government's overtures to the Soviet Union were not favorably regarded by Pakistan's conservative middle classes, who regarded the USSR as an atheist and socialist ally of India.[32]

In 1950, the United States extended an overture to Pakistan by inviting Prime Minister Khan for an official state visit. As the USSR had rebuffed capitalist Pakistan and aligned itself with Pakistan's rivals, the country's policy crafters found that maintaining friendly relations with both superpowers was impossible. Prime Minister Khan accepted the American invitation and paid an official 23-day state visit to the United States beginning on May 3, 1950. The event was highly politicized in Pakistan, and outraged the country's leftists, and was seen as the seminal event that lead to warm diplomatic ties for several decades. However, it is alleged that during PM Khan's first visit to the US, president Truman requested Pakistan's premier to let the CIA formulate a base in Pakistan, strictly to keep an eye on the activities of Soviet Union – a request which was not granted by Khan.[33]

Throughout the period between 1950 and 1953, several major Pakistan political and military figures paid visits to the United States. During this time, Army commander Ayub Khan paid visits to the United States – a figure who would later institute a strongly pro-American military government. Foreign Minister Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, Foreign Secretary Ikram-Ullah Khan, Finance Minister Malik Ghulam Muhammad, and Defense Secretary Iskandar Mirza all paid official state visits to the United States.[34]

U.S. Vice President Alben W. Barkley explains the 1948 version of the Vice President's seal to Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan of Pakistan and his wife

Defense ties between the two countries strengthened almost immediately following Khan's visit to the United States. Personal goodwill towards Pakistan was evident even when Liaqat Ali Khan was assassinated in 1951. Under the government of Khawaja Nazimuddin, Pakistani and American officials developed positive attitudes towards one another. Such personal goodwill was evident when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, while arguing for wheat aid to Pakistan in 1953, told the sub-committee on Agriculture and Forestry during hearings that, "the people of Pakistan had a splendid military tradition," and that in Karachi he had been met by a guard of honour which was the "finest" he had ever seen".[34] Close ties between the countries were further consolidated by a mutual defense treaty signed in May 1954, after which hundreds of Pakistani military officers began to regularly train in the United States.[34] A U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) was also established in Rawalpindi, then capital of Pakistan. Pakistani officers were not only trained in military tactics, but also taught leadership, management, and economic theory.[34]

In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower requested permission from Pakistan's new Prime Minister, Huseyn Suhravardie, to lease the Peshawar Air Station (PAS), which was to be used in intelligence gathering of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles.[34] The request was granted, and soon the United States built an airstrip, command and control station at the site before initiating operations.[34] The base was regarded as top-secret, and even the high-ranking Pakistani public officials such as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, were refused entry to the facility.[34]

American interest in Pakistan as an ally against the spread of communism primarily was focused on maintaining excellent ties with Pakistan's military establishment. Prime Minister Huseyn Suhrawardy paid several official visits to the United States – typically with his Army commander, Ayub Khan, at his side.[34] After a military coup d'état in 1958, Ayub Khan argued that left wing activists could seize power in Pakistan, thereby jeopardizing American interests in the region.[34] He successfully convinced American officials that the Pakistani military was the strongest and most capable institution to govern the country.[34]

1958–1971: relations during the military dictatorships of Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan[edit]

Ayub Khan standing in a motorcade with American President John F. Kennedy.
President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with President Ayub Khan in Karachi, Pakistan

During the rule of Ayub Khan, Pakistan enjoyed a close relationship with the United States. Ayub Khan was strongly pro-American, and on a visit to the United States in 1954, before Khan was head of state, he famously told American Brigadier-General Henry A. Byroade, "I didn't come here to look at barracks. Our army can be your army if you want us. But let's make a decision".[34] His view of the United States had remained positive by the time he seized power. During the 1960s, Pakistan's population was generally pro-American and also held a positive view of the United States.

In 1960, Ayub Khan granted permission for the United States to fly its first spy missions to the Soviet Union from the Peshawar Air Base, which had been recently upgraded with American funds. In May 1960, the U-2 incident took place, in which pilot Gary Powers was captured by the USSR.[34] The CIA notified Ayub Khan of the incident while he was in London for a state visit: he reportedly shrugged his shoulders and stated that he had expected such an incident would eventually happen.[34]

In 1961, Khan paid his first visit to the United States as head of state. American goodwill towards Khan was evident by an elaborate state dinner held at Mount Vernon, and a ticker tape parade for Khan in New York City.[35]

American military aide was concentrated in West Pakistan, with economic benefits were controlled by and almost exclusively used by West Pakistan.[34] East Pakistani anger towards an absence of economic development was directed towards the United States, as well as West Pakistan. The East-Pakistan parliament passed a resolution denouncing the 1954 military pact with the United States.[34]

President Ayub Khan and Jaqueline Kennedy with Sardar, a Seal brown horse gifted by Khan to Jackie Kennedy, 1962.

Economic aid to Pakistan was further increased by the United States through the consortium companies.[36] West Pakistan's high rate of economic growth during this time period brought wide regard to Pakistan as a model of successful implementation of capitalism in a developing country; in 1964, GDP growth was 9.38%.[36]

In 1962, relations began cooling. In the aftermath of India's major defeat in the Sino-Indian War, the United States shipped arms to India.[37] It did not provide notice to Pakistan and ignored Pakistan's concerns that these arms might be used by India against Pakistan.[38] Additionally, Ayub Khan was disappointed that Pakistan's decision not to take advantage of Indian vulnerabilities during its war with China was not rewarded with serious United States efforts in negotiations to settle the Kashmir dispute.[39]

Convinced that diplomatic solutions would not favor Pakistan, Pakistan launched Operation Gibraltar against India,[39] which escalated to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, which resulting in a stalemate.[36] Economic growth in 1965 was a mere 0.88%. The economy rapidly rebounded with a GDP growth of 2.32% in 1966, and 9.79% in 1969. However, given the huge economic cost of the war without any clear victory (or loss), Khan surrendered his presidential powers to army commander Yahya Khan (no relation) in 1969.[36]

American President Lyndon Johnson cultivated warm personal relations with Indian and Pakistani leaders, This policy had unintended negative consequences. Since 1954, the American alliance with Pakistan caused India to move closer to the Soviet Union. Johnson hoped that a more evenhanded policy towards both countries would soften the tensions in South Asia, and bring both nations closer to the United States. With a major presence already in Vietnam, Johnson ended the traditional American division of South Asia into 'allies' and 'neutrals'. He had a plan to develop good relations with both India and Pakistan, supplying arms and money to both, and to maintain neutrality from their intense border feuds. The result was that his even-handedness pushed Pakistan closer to Communist China and India closer to the Soviet Union.[40]

Pakistan's role in U.S.-China relations[edit]

President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger took advantage of Pakistan's close relationship with the People's Republic of China to initiate secret contacts that resulted in Henry Kissinger's secret visit to China in July 1971 after visiting Pakistan. The contacts resulted in the 1972 Nixon visit to China and the subsequent normalizing of relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China.

1971: Relations during war[edit]

President of Pakistan Yahya Khan with United States President Richard Nixon, 1970.

At the onset of hostilities between India and Pakistan which led to the two-week December Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, President Nixon urged Yahya Khan to restrain Pakistani forces,[41] in order to prevent escalation of the war, and to safeguard Pakistan's interests – Nixon feared that an Indian invasion of West Pakistan would lead to socialist India's domination of the subcontinent, thereby strengthening the position of the Soviet Union.[42] Yahya Khan feared that an independent Bangladesh would lead to the disintegration of West Pakistan. However, Indian military support for Bengali guerrillas and a massive flood of Bengali refugees into India led to the escalation of hostilities and a declared war between India and Pakistan.[43]

The United States secretly encouraged the shipment of military equipment from the Shah's Iran, Turkey, and Jordan to Pakistan, and reimbursed those countries for their shipments,[44] despite congressional objections.[45] The United States, however, also threatened to cut off aid to pressure Pakistan to end hostilities, but did not wish for India to dominate the new political landscape in South Asia either.

Near the end of the war, the Nixon Administration recognized Pakistan's imminent defeat, but sent the USS Enterprise and the Task Force-74 of the United States Seventh Fleet into the Indian Ocean, which was regarded as a warning to India to resist escalating attacks against West Pakistan.[46] As it was the height of the Vietnam War, the United States' show of force was seen as a sign of support for the beleaguered West Pakistan Armed Forces.[47]

Declassified CIA intelligence documents stated that "India intended to dismember Pakistan and destroy its armed forces, a possible loss of a U.S. ally in the Cold War that the United States cannot afford to lose." Nixon termed India a "Soviet stooge" before ordering the Enterprise to lead the Task Force-74.[48] In an assessment completed by the United States, India was seen as being able to summarily defeat Pakistan, were India to receive the full backing of Soviet Union.[48] Nixon sent a message to the Soviet Union urging the Russians to stop backing India. In Nixon's words: "In the strongest possible...(...)... terms to restrain India with which ... (Soviets) have great influence and for whose actions you must share responsibility".[48]

Democratic government (1971–1977)[edit]

In 1975, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gifted a carved ivory set of chess to the United States President Gerald Ford.

As a result of the 1970s election, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a charismatic democratic socialist, became President (1971–1974) and later Prime Minister in 1974. This period is seen as a "quiet cold war" with Pakistan and its democratic socialist government led by Bhutto. His socialist ideas favored the communist ideas but never actually allied with communism. Under Bhutto, Pakistan would focus on the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, building closer ties with the Soviet bloc and the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, Bhutto tried to maintain a balance with the United States, but such attempts were rebuffed. Bhutto opposed the ultra-leftism concepts but was a strong proponent of left-wing politics, which the U.S. had opposed in Pakistan from the very start.[49]

When differences develop, a small country should not take on a great power head-on, it is wiser for it to duck, detour, side-step and try to enter from the back-door...

— Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, on U.S.-Pakistan relations, [34]

Although Richard Nixon enjoyed firm relations with Bhutto and was a close friend of his, relations significantly soured under the presidency of Jimmy Carter.[50] Carter, an anti-socialist, tightened the embargo placed on Pakistan and put pressure on the government through the United States Ambassador to Pakistan, Brigadier-General Henry Byroade.[50] The socialist leanings of the government and Bhutto's proposed left-wing theories, had badly upset the United States, with some fearing the loss of Pakistan as an ally in the Cold War.[50] The leftist ideas of the government and Bhutto's policy towards the Soviet Union was seen by the United States as sympathetic. It had also built a bridge for the Soviet Union to gain naval access in Pakistan's warm water ports, something that both the United States and the Soviet Union lacked.[50]

During the course of 1976 presidential election, Carter was elected as U.S. President, and in his inaugural speech, he announced his determination to seek the ban of nuclear weapons.[50] With Carter's election, Bhutto lost all the links to United States administration that he had through President Nixon.[50] Bhutto had to face the embargo and pressure from an American President who was completely against the political objectives that Bhutto had set out to accomplish. In his speech Carter had indirectly announced his opposition to Bhutto, his ambitions, and the elections.[50] Responding to President Carter, Bhutto launched a more aggressive and serious diplomatic offensive on the United States and the Western world over the nuclear issues.[51] Bhutto's hard-line stance on nuclear issues put the United States, particularly Carter who found it extremely difficult to counter Bhutto on Defensive position at the United Nations.[51] India and the Soviet Union were pushed aside when Bhutto attacked the Indian nuclear programme, labeling the latter's program as based on nuclear proliferation.[51] Writing to the world and Western leaders, Bhutto made his intentions clear to the United States and the rest of the world:

Pakistan was exposed to a kind of "nuclear threat and blackmail" unparalleled elsewhere..... (...)... If the world's community failed to provide political insurance to Pakistan and other countries against the nuclear blackmail, these countries would be a constraint to launch atomic bomb programs of their own!... [A]ssurances provided by the United Nations were not "Enough!"...

— Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, statement written in "Eating Grass", source[51]

Although Carter placed an embargo on Pakistan, Bhutto, under the technical guidance and diplomatic advice of Foreign minister Aziz Ahmed, succeeded in buying sensitive equipment, common metal materials, and electronic components, marked as "common items", hiding the true purpose of the purchases and greatly enhancing the atomic bomb project.[50] Bhutto tried to resolve the issue, but Carter intentionally sabotaged the talks. In a thesis written by historian Abdul Ghafoor Buhgari, Carter is accused of having sabotaged Bhutto's credibility. However, he was not in favour of his execution as Carter and called on General Zia-ul-Haq to spare his life.[52] The senior leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party reached out to different countries' ambassadors and high commissioners but did not meet with the U.S. ambassador, as the leadership knew the "noble" part played by Carter and his administration.[50] When the Carter administration discovered Bhutto's nuclear programme, it had already reached an advanced stage and had a disastrous effect on SALT I Treaty which was soon to collapse. This was a failure of President Carter to stop atomic proliferation as the arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States heightened.[50]

Bhutto meeting with Nixon in 1972.

In 1974, with India carried out the test of nuclear weapons near the Pakistan's eastern border, codename Smiling Buddha, Bhutto sought the United States to impose economic sanctions in India.[49] Though it was unsuccessful approach, in a meeting of Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Kissinger told Pakistan's ambassador to Washington that the test is "a fait accompli and that Pakistan would have to learn to live with it", although he was aware this is a "little rough" on the Pakistanis.[49] In the 1970s, the ties were further severed with Bhutto as Bhutto had continued to administer the research on weapons, and in 1976, in a meeting with Bhutto and Kissinger, Kissinger had told Bhutto, "that if you [Bhutto] do not cancel, modify or postpone the Reprocessing Plant Agreement, we will make a horrible example from you".[53] The meeting was ended by Bhutto as he had replied: "For my country's sake, for the sake of people of Pakistan, I did not succumb to that black-mailing and threats". After the meeting, Bhutto intensified his nationalization and industrialization policies, as well as aggressively taking steps to spur scientific research on atomic weapons and the atomic bomb project. Bhutto authorized the construction of Chagai weapon-testing laboratories, whilst the United States opposed the action and predicted that it will lead to a massive and destructive war between India and Pakistan in the future. The atomic bomb project became fully mature in 1978, and a first cold test was conducted in 1983 (see Kirana-I).

Bhutto called upon Organization of Islamic Conference in 1974 order to bring Muslim world together. In 1977, Bhutto was arrested by his appointed army chief Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who declared martial law and assumed presidency in 1978. Bhutto was hanged in 1979 for the murder of a political opponent.[53]

Military dictatorship (1977–1988)[edit]

In 1979, a group of Pakistani students burned the American embassy in Islamabad to the ground, as a reaction to the Grand Mosque Seizure, citing U.S. involvement. Two Americans were killed.

Crile and Charlie Wilson meeting with ISI officers in the 1980s.

After the removal and death of Bhutto, Pakistan's ties with the United States were better and improved. On December 24, 1979, the Soviet 40th Army crossed borders, rolling into Afghanistan, President Carter issued his doctrine (see Carter Doctrine). The silent features offers the creation of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF), increasing the deployment of United States Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), a collective security framework in the region and a commitment to the defence of Pakistan by transfer of significant amount of weapons and Monetarism.

Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, ISI and CIA ran multibillion-dollar worth Operation Cyclone to thwart the communist regime as well as defeating Soviets in Afghanistan. Throughout the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq, the ties and relations were promoted at its maximum point, and the United States had given billion dollars of economic and military aid to Pakistan. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 highlighted the common interest of Pakistan and the United States in opposing the Soviet Union. In 1981, Pakistan and the United States agreed on a $3.2 billion military and economic assistance program aimed at helping Pakistan deal with the heightened threat to security in the region and its economic development needs. With US assistance, in the largest covert operation in history, Pakistan armed and supplied anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan.

American president Reagan with Pakistani president Zia in December 1982

In the 1980s, Pakistan agreed to pay $658 million for 28 F-16 fighter jets from the United States; however, the US congress froze the deal, citing objections to Pakistan's nuclear ambitions. Under the terms of the American cancellation, the US kept both the money and the planes, leading to angry claims of theft by Pakistanis.[54]

When Americans lost in Vietnam, Americans went home and cried. When the Soviets got kicked out of Egypt, Soviets decided to go after Libya. ... Is America still the leader of the free world? In what respect?. ... I hope it will soon restore its countervailing role, abandoned after Vietnam

— Zia on U.S.'s policy on Pakistan., [34]

Initially, Carter offered Pakistan $325 million in aid over three years; Zia rejected this as "peanuts".[55] Carter also signed the finding in 1980 that allowed less than $50 million a year to go to the Mujahideen. All attempts were rebuffed, Zia shrewdly played his cards knowing that Carter was on his way out and he may get a better deal from the incoming Reagan. After Ronald Reagan came to office, defeating Carter for the US presidency in 1980, all this changed, due to President Reagan's new priorities and the unlikely and remarkably effective effort by Congressman Charles Wilson (D-TX), aided by Joanne Herring, and CIA Afghan Desk Chief Gust Avrakotos to increase the funding for Operation Cyclone. Aid to the Afghan resistance, and to Pakistan, increased substantially, finally reaching $1 billion. The United States, faced with a rival superpower looking as if it were to create another Communist bloc, now engaged Zia in fighting a US-supported war by proxy in Afghanistan against the Soviets.

The Reagan administration and Reagan himself supported Pakistan's military regime, American officials visited the country on a routine basis.[34] The U.S. political influence in Pakistan effectively curbed down the liberals, socialists, communists, and democracy advocates in the country in 1983, instead advising Zia to hold the non-partisans elections in 1985.[34] General Akhtar Abdur Rahman of ISI and William Casey of CIA worked together in harmony, and in an atmosphere of mutual trust. Reagan sold Pakistan $3.2 billion worth of attack helicopters, self-propelled howitzers, armoured personnel carriers, 40 F-16 Fighting Falcon warplanes, nuclear technology, naval warships, and intelligence equipment and training.[56][57]

Democratic governments (1988–1998)[edit]

After the restoration of democracy after the disastrous and mysterious death of Zia and U.S. Ambassador in an aviation crash, relations deteriorated quickly with upcoming Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. The United States took a tough stand on Pakistan's nuclear development, passing the Pressler amendment, while significantly improving the relations with India. Both Benazir and Nawaz Sharif also asked the United States to take steps to stop the Indian nuclear program, feeling that United States was not doing enough to address what Pakistan saw as an existential threat. Pakistan found itself in a state of extremely high insecurity as tensions mounted with India and Afghanistan's infighting continued. Pakistan's alliance with the U.S. was strained due to factors such as its support for the Taliban and public distancing of the Pakistani government from the U.S.

Rift in relations[edit]

In 1992 US Ambassador Nicholas Platt advised Pakistan's leaders that if Pakistan continued to support terrorists in India or Indian-administered territory, "the Secretary of State may find himself required by law to place Pakistan on the state sponsors of terrorism list."[20] When the US decided to respond to the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Africa by firing missiles at an al-Qaeda camp in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, five Pakistani ISI agents present at the camp were killed.[20]

Economic embargo[edit]

Benazir Bhutto paying state visit to the U.S., 1989.

In 1989, Benazir Bhutto made a quick visit in the U.S. asking U.S. to stop financing the Afghan mujahideen to President George H. W. Bush, which she marked "America's Frankenstein".[58] This was followed by Nawaz Sharif who visited the U.S. in 1990, but U.S. gave cold shoulder to Pakistan, asking Pakistan to stop developing the nuclear deterrence. In 1990, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif travelled to the U.S. to solve the nuclear crises after the U.S. had tightened its economic embargo on Pakistan, prompting Sharif and then-Treasure Minister Sartaj Aziz to hold talks on Washington.[59] It was widely reported in Pakistan that the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Teresita Schaffer had told the Foreign Minister Shahabzada Yaqub Khan to halt the uranium enrichment programme.[59] In December 1990, France's Commissariat à l'énergie atomique agreed to provide a commercial 900MW power plant, but plans did not materialize as France wanted Pakistan to provide entire financial funds for the plant. Furthermore, the U.S. Ambassador Robert Oakley further influenced on the project, showing growing concerns of the U.S. on the agreement.[59] While talking to U.S. media, Nawaz Sharif declared that: "Pakistan possessed no [atomic] bomb... Pakistan would be happy to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) but it must be provided "first" to India to do the same".[59] After France's project was cancelled, Nawaz Sharif successfully held talks with the China to build the largest commercial nuclear plant, CHASNUPP-I in Chasma city in Pakistan.[59]

In 1995, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto made a final visit to U.S. urging President Bill Clinton to amend the Pressler Amendment and emphasized the United States to launch a campaign against extremism, with Pakistan allying with the United States.[60] Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was successful in passing the Brown Amendment, but the embargo on arms remained active. During the United States trip, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto faced heated criticism and opposition on the nuclear weapons program, who however responded fiercely and in turn sharply criticized U.S.'s nonproliferation policy and demanded that the United States honor its contractual obligation.[60] Although Benazir was able to convince the U.S. business community to invest in Pakistan, she was unable to revert the economic embargo which kept investment away from the country.[60]

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif meeting with William Cohen, Secretary of Defense, 1998.

In 1998, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered to conduct first nuclear tests after Benazir Bhutto called for the tests (see Chagai-I and Chagai-II), in response to Indian nuclear tests (see Pokhran-II). Nawaz Sharif's ordering the nuclear tests was met with great hostility and ire in the United States after President Clinton placing the economic embargo on Pakistan. The relations were also refrained and strained after Nawaz Sharif became involved with Kargil war with India, while India's relations with Israel and U.S. greatly enhanced. Soon after the tests, Benazir Bhutto publicly announced her belief that her father was "sent to the gallows at the instance of the superpower for pursuing the nuclear capability,[61] though she did not disclose the name of the power.[62] In 1999, Benazir leaked the information that Nawaz Sharif would be deposed that there is (nothing) that Americans[63] want to support Nawaz Sharif or the democracy in Pakistan.[63] After the military coup was commenced against Nawaz Sharif, the President Clinton criticized the coup demanding the restoration of democracy but did not favor the mass demonstration against the military regime as the coup, at that time, was popular. In conclusion, both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto refused to make compromises with respect to the country's nuclear deterrence, instead building infrastructure despite U.S. objections.[61]

Cold war legacies and trade sanctions[edit]

CENTO and SEATO[edit]

Pakistan was a leading member of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) from its adoption in 1954–55 and allied itself with the United States during most of the Cold war. In 1971–72, Pakistan ended its alliance with the United States after the East-Pakistan war in which East Pakistan successfully seceded with the aid of India. The promise of economic aid from the United States was instrumental in creating these agreements.

During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the United States refused to provide any military support to Pakistan, going against her pledge. This generated widespread anti-American feelings and emotions in the country, believing that the United States was no longer a reliable ally. According to C. Christine Fair, the U.S. cut off arms supplies because Pakistan "started the war with India by using regular military personnel disguised as mujahideen." According to Fair, in 1971 "the Pakistanis were angry at the U.S. again, for not bailing them out from another war they started against India."[20]

Trade embargo[edit]

In April 1979, the United States suspended most economic assistance to Pakistan over concerns about Pakistan's atomic bomb project under the Foreign Assistance Act.[64]

September 2001 and after[edit]

Pervez Musharraf with President Bush.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001 in the United States, Pakistan became a key ally in the war on terror with the United States. In 2001, US President George W. Bush pressured the government into joining the US the war on terror. Pervez Musharraf acknowledges the payments received for captured terrorists in his book:

We've captured 689 and handed over 369 to the United States. We've earned bounties totaling millions of dollars

— Former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf

In 2003, the US officially forgave US$1 billion in Pakistani debt in a ceremony in Pakistan in turn for Pakistan joining the US 'war on terror'. "Today's signing represents a promise kept and another milestone in our expanding partnership," US Ambassador Nancy Powell said in a statement, "The forgiveness of $1 billion in bilateral debt is just one piece of a multifaceted, multi-billion dollar assistance package." The new relationship between the United States and Pakistan is not just about September 11,' Powell said. "It is about the rebirth of a long-term partnership between our two countries." However, Pakistan support of the U.S. and its war has angered many Pakistanis that do not support it.

In October 2005, Condoleezza Rice made a statement where she promised that the United States will support the country's earthquake relief efforts and help it rebuild" after the Kashmir earthquake.[65]

Alliance with United States[edit]

Prior to the September 11 attacks in 2001, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were key supporters of the Taliban in Afghanistan, as part of their "strategic depth" objective vis-a-vis India, Iran, and Russia.[citation needed]

After 9/11, Pakistan, led by General Pervez Musharraf, reversed course as they were under pressure from the United States and joined the "War on Terror" as a U.S. ally. Having failed to convince the Taliban to hand over bin Laden and other members of Al Qaeda, Pakistan provided the U.S. a number of military airports and bases for its attack on Afghanistan, along with other logistical support.[citation needed] Since 2001, Pakistan has arrested over five hundred Al-Qaeda members and handed them over to the United States; senior U.S. officers have been lavish in their praise of Pakistani efforts in public while expressing their concern that not enough was being done in private. However, General Musharraf was strongly supported by the Bush administration.[citation needed]

Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz shakes hands with President George Walker Bush.

In return for their support, Pakistan had sanctions lifted and has received about $10 billion in U.S. aid since 2001, primarily military. In June 2004, President George W. Bush designated Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally,[66] making it eligible, among other things, to purchase advanced American military technology.

Pakistan has lost thousands of lives since joining the U.S. war on terror in the form of both soldiers and civilians and was going through a critical period, however many areas of Pakistan are becoming terror free.[neutrality is disputed] Suicide bombs were commonplace in Pakistan, whereas they were unheard of prior to 9/11.[citation needed] The Taliban have been resurgent in recent years in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been created internally in Pakistan, as they have been forced to flee their homes as a result of fighting between Pakistani forces and the Taliban in the regions bordering Afghanistan and further in Swat.[citation needed]

A key campaign argument of US President Barack Obama was that the US had made the mistake of "putting all our eggs in one basket" in the form of General Musharraf.[citation needed] Musharraf was eventually forced out of office under the threat of impeachment, after years of political protests by lawyers, civilians and other political parties in Pakistan. With Obama coming into office, the U.S. is expected to triple non-military aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion per year over 10 years, and to tie military aid to progress in the fight against militants. The purpose of the aid is to help strengthen the relatively new democratic government led by President Zardari and to help strengthen civil institutions and the general economy in Pakistan and to put in place an aid program that is broader in scope than just supporting Pakistan's military.

Aid from the United States since 9/11[edit]

Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally as part of the War on Terrorism, and a leading recipient of U.S. aid.[67] Between 2002 and 2013, Pakistan received $26 billion in economic and military aid and sales of military equipment. The equipment included eighteen new F-16 aircraft, eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, 6,000 TOW anti-tank missiles, 500 AMRAM air-to-air missiles, 6 C-130 transport aircraft, 20 Cobra attack helicopters, and a Perry-class missile frigate. About half of the aid package was disbursed during the Bush administration and other half during the Obama administration. The aid during the Obama administration was more economic than military.[4]

Trust deficit issues[edit]

The leadership of both nations meeting in a high-level state dinner in Islamabad, 2006.

In 2008, NSA Director Mike McConnell confronted ISI Director Ahmad Shuja Pasha, claiming that the ISI was tipping off jihadists so that they could escape in advance of American attacks against them.[20]

On 11 June 2008, the Gora Prai airstrike, on the Afghan-Pakistani border, killed 10 members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. The Pakistani military condemned the airstrike as an act of aggression, souring the relations between the two countries.[68] However, after the drone attacks in June, President Bush had said 'Pakistan is strong ally '.[69] Western officials have claimed nearly 70%( roughly $3.4 billion) of the aid given to the Pakistani military has been misspent in 2002–2007. However U.S.-Pakistani relationship has been a transactional based and US military aid to Pakistan has been shrouded in secrecy for several years until recently.[70][71][72][73][74] Furthermore, a significant proportion of US economic aid for Pakistan has ended up back in the US as funds are channeled through large US contractors. US Representative Gary Ackerman also said a large sum of US economic aid has not left the US as it spent on consulting fees and overhead cost.[75][76]

In the November 2008 Mumbai Attacks, the United States informed Pakistan that it expected full cooperation in the hunt for the plotters of the attacks.

The American politicians at the U.S. Congress publicly accused Pakistan of harboring of Osama bin Laden, Afghan Taliban and their "Quetta Shura" while the lawmakers in the Pakistani Parliament leveled serious accusations at the Americans doing very little to control the porous eastern border of Afghanistan, where Pakistan's most-wanted terrorist, Mullah Fazlullah and his organization were believed to be hiding.

Border engagement and skirmishes[edit]

The United States and Pakistan have experienced several military confrontations on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. These skirmishes took place between American forces deployed in Afghanistan, and Pakistani troops guarding the border. On November 26, 2011, 28 Pakistani soldiers were killed in an aerial attack on Pakistani positions near the border. The attack further damaged US-Pakistani relations with many in Pakistan calling for a more hardline stance against the United States.[77]

Following the incident, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke to their Pakistani counterparts to give their "deepest condolences" in a joint statement and also supported a NATO investigation.[78] A NATO spokesman also said that NATO "regrets the loss of life of any Pakistani servicemen".[79]

2009: U.S. military and economic aid[edit]

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attending meeting with then Prime Minister Raza Gillani during an October 2009 visit to Islamabad.
Circular diagram showing 96% of U.S. funding to Pakistan in military efforts and 1% in development efforts.

On 14 September 2009, former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, admitted that American foreign aid to Pakistan had been diverted from its original purpose of fighting the Taliban to preparing for war against neighboring India.[80] The United States government has responded by stating that it will take these allegations seriously.[81] However Pervez Musharraf also said, '"Wherever there is a threat to Pakistan, we will use it [the equipment] there. If the threat comes from al-Qaeda or Taliban, it will be used there. If the threat comes from India, we will most surely use it there."[80]

In late 2009, Hillary Clinton made a speech in Pakistan about the war against the militants and said: "...we commend the Pakistani military for their courageous fight, and we commit to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Pakistani people in your fight for peace and security."[82]

The Pakistani school children holding U.S. and Pakistan flags at the completion of USAID funded school in rural Pakistan.

In October 2009, the US Congress approved $7.5 billion of non-military aid to Pakistan over the next five years via the Kerry-Lugar Bill. In February 2010, US President Barack Obama sought to increase funds to Pakistan to "promote economic and political stability in strategically important regions where the United States has special security interests".[67] Obama also sought $3.1 billion aid for Pakistan to defeat Al Qaeda for 2010.[83]

On December 1, 2009, President Barack Obama in a speech on a policy about Pakistan said "In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over.... The Pakistani people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan's security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed."[84] President Obama also said, "In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly, those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect and mutual trust" and that the two countries "share a common enemy' in combating Islamic extremism."[85]

In the aftermath of a thwarted bombing attempt on a 2009 Northwest Airlines flight, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a new set of screening guidelines that includes pat-downs for passengers from countries of interest, which includes Pakistan.[86] In a sign of widening fissures between the two allies, on January 21, Pakistan declined a request by the United States to launch new offensives on militants in 2010.[87] Pakistan say it "can't launch any new offensives against militants for six months to a year because it wants to 'stabilize' previous gains made. However, the US praises Pakistan's military effort against the militants.[88] Furthermore, Pakistan president, in meeting with the U.S. delegation, had said Pakistan "had suffered a... loss of over 35 billion dollars during the last eight years as a result of the fight against militancy." But the President also called for "greater Pak-U.S. cooperation".

2010: Coalition partnership issues[edit]

In February 2010, Anne W. Patterson (U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan) said that the United States is committed to a partnership with Pakistan and further said "Making this commitment to Pakistan while the U.S. is still recovering from the effects of the global recession reflects the strength of our vision. Yet we have made this commitment, because we see the success of Pakistan, its economy, its civil society and its democratic institutions as important for ourselves, for this region and for the world."[84]

Between 2002 and 2010, Pakistan received approximately $18 billion[89] in military and economic aid from the United States. In February 2010, the Obama administration requested an additional $3 billion in aid, for a total of $20.7 billion.[90]

In mid-February 2010, after the capture of the second most powerful Taliban, Abdul Ghani Baradar in Pakistan by Pakistani forces, the White House hailed the operation. Furthermore, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that this is a "big success for our mutual efforts(Pakistan and United States)in the region" and praised Pakistan for the capture, saying it was a sign of increased cooperation with the US in the terror fight.[91]

In March, Richard Holbrooke, then US special envoy to Pakistan, said that US-Pakistani relations have seen "significant improvement" under Obama. He also said, "No government on earth has received more high-level attention" than Pakistan.[92][93]

2011: American accusations and attacks in Pakistan[edit]

U.S. President Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

2011 was rated by the BBC as a "disastrous year" for Pakistan-U.S. relations, primarily due to three events: the Raymond Allen Davis incident, the death of Osama bin Laden and the Salala incident.[94] As early as 2005, Western criticism against Pakistan grew and many European and American political correspondents criticized Pakistan at the public level.[95] The London-based The Economist in fact observed: "As an American ally, Pakistan has become an embarrassment for the United States."[95] In January 2011, the Raymond Allen Davis incident occurred in which Raymond Davis, an alleged private security contractor, shot dead two Pakistani locals. The action sparked protests in Pakistan and threatened relations between the United States and Pakistan, including aid flows.[96] Pakistan prosecuted him despite US demands for him to be freed because he enjoys diplomatic immunity.[96] Ultimately he was freed after the United States made payments to the families of the slain Pakistanis, but the incident was emblematic of the volatile nature of American-Pakistani relations. In spite of this rocky relationship, the United States has stated that it remains committed to assisting Pakistan's new democratic government in the areas of development, stability, and security.[97]

The CIA had long suspected Osama bin Laden of hiding in Pakistan.[98][99] India and US have also accused Pakistan of giving safe-haven to the Taliban.[100] However, Pakistan has repeatedly denied these accusations.

The attack on the US embassy and the NATO headquarters in Kabul were blamed on the Haqqani Network, which US Admiral Mike Mullen called "a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency."[101][102] Pakistan reacted by recalling its finance minister who was on a visit to the U.N.[103] Pakistan also tried to strengthen the relationship with China and Saudi Arabia to counter the U.S.[104] The Chinese government advised Pakistan against any commitments that could jeopardize China's relationships with US and India.[105] The United States reissued a call urging Pakistan to act against the Haqqani Network or else the US would be forced to take on the threat unilaterally.[106] Islamic groups in Pakistan, issued a fatwa proclaiming Jihad against the US.[107] This was followed by Pakistan threatening the US with retaliation, if the US went ahead with unilateral action against the Haqqani network.[108]

In May 2011, Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad was killed and in September, The New Yorker reported that the order to kill Shahzad came from an officer on General Kayani's staff. In July Admiral Mullen alleged that Shahzad's killing had been "sanctioned by the government" of Pakistan,[109] but the ISI denied any involvement in the Shahzad murder.

It was reported in 2011 that academics and journalists in the United States have been approached by Inter-Services Intelligence spies, who threatened them not to speak about the Balochistan independence movement, as well as human rights abuses by the Pakistani Army, or else their families would be harmed.[110]

Collapse of alliance and death of Osama bin Laden[edit]

Diagram of Osama bin Laden's hideout, showing the high concrete walls that surround the compound

Osama bin Laden, then head of the militant group al-Qaeda, was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, shortly after 1 a.m. local time[111][112] by a United States special forces military unit. The operation, codenamed Operation Neptune Spear, was ordered by United States President Barack Obama and carried out in a US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operation by a team of United States Navy SEALs from the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (also known as DEVGRU or informally by its former name, SEAL Team Six) of the Joint Special Operations Command, with support from CIA operatives on the ground.[113][114]

According to Obama administration officials, US officials did not share information about the raid with the government of Pakistan until it was over.[115][116] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen called Pakistan's army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at about 3 a.m. local time to inform him of the Abbottabad Operation.[117]

According to the Pakistani foreign ministry, the operation was conducted entirely by US forces.[118] Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officials said they were also present at what they called a joint operation;[119] President Asif Ali Zardari flatly denied this.[120] Pakistan's foreign secretary Salman Bashir later confirmed that Pakistani military had scrambled F-16s after they became aware of the attack but that they reached the compound after American helicopters had left.[121]

2012–13: American sentiment against Pakistan[edit]

American Chairman of Joint Chiefs Peter Pace seen saluting the Pakistan's inter-services in Islamabad.

Since some in the U.S. government claimed that they had caught bin Laden without Pakistani help, numerous allegations were made that the government of Pakistan had shielded bin Laden.[119][122][123] Critics cited the very close proximity of bin Laden's heavily fortified compound to the Pakistan Military Academy, that the US chose not to notify Pakistani authorities before the operation and the double standards of Pakistan regarding the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.[123][124][125]

However, according to Steve Coll, as of 2019 there is no direct evidence showing Pakistani knowledge of bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad, even by a rogue or compartmented faction within the government, other than the circumstantial fact of bin Laden's compound being located near (albeit not directly visible from) the Pakistan Military Academy. Documents captured from the Abbottabad compound generally show that bin Laden was wary of contact with Pakistani intelligence and police, especially in light of Pakistan's role in the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; it has also been suggested that the $25 million U.S. reward for information leading to bin Laden would have been enticing to Pakistani officers given their reputation for corruption. The compound itself, although unusually tall, was less conspicuous than sometimes envisaged by Americans, given the common local habit of walling off homes for protection against violence or to ensure the privacy of female family members.[126]

According to the leaked files, in December 2009, the government of Tajikistan had also told US officials that many in Pakistan were aware of bin Laden's whereabouts. [127]

CIA chief Leon Panetta said the CIA had ruled out involving Pakistan in the operation, because it feared that "any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission. They might alert the targets."[128] However, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that "cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound in which he was hiding."[129][130] Obama echoed her sentiments.[131] John O. Brennan, Obama's chief counterterrorism advisor, said that it was inconceivable that bin Laden did not have support from within Pakistan. He further stated, "People have been referring to this as hiding in plain sight. We are looking at how he was able to hide out there for so long."[132]

In 2012, Shakil Afridi, a doctor who had set up a fake vaccination campaign – in cooperation with the United States in searching for Al Qaeda and bin Laden – was convicted of treason by Pakistan, and sentenced to 33 years in prison.[133][134] The United States Congress voted to cut 33 million dollars in aid to Pakistan: 1 million dollars for every year that Shakil Afridi was sentenced to prison.[135] The role of Dr. Afridi was exposed by the British newspaper The Guardian in July 2011. CIA's fake vaccination campaign in turned greatly harmed Pakistan polio vaccine drive in the tribal areas. Experts have criticised the CIA's fake vaccination drive to find bin Laden, stating that there could have been a better and more ethical way to find bin Laden.[136][137]

2014 and 2015: Rapprochement[edit]

In 2015, US handed over MRAPs to Pakistan.

Following years of poor inter-governmental relations, the two countries began to cooperate more closely – particularly following the United States' use of drone missiles to strike at Pakistan's most-wanted militant Mullah Fazlullah on November 24, 2014, whom they "narrowly missed".[138] The United States later used drone missiles to kill several of Pakistan's most wanted militants who were hiding in a remote region close to the Afghan border in November 2014. The Pakistani Zarb-e-Azb operation against militant in North Waziristan also, in the words of Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, "fractured" the Haqqani Network—long accused by the United States of having a safe harbor in Pakistan.[138] The United States then captured and transferred a senior Taliban commander, Latif Mehsud, to Pakistan, which had been seeking his arrest.[139] Following an unprecedented two-week-long visit by Pakistan's most senior military official Gen. Raheel Sharif, Rep. Adam Schiff stated that US-Pakistani relations were on the upswing following several tense years of dysfunction. Pakistan further killed senior Al-Qaeda leader Adnan el Shukrijumah—long wanted by the United States.[140] Warming of relations, and increased security cooperation, between Afghanistan and Pakistan were also positive developments by the United States, which had long tried to mend relations between the two countries.[141]

On 7 May 2015, according to an internal report prepared by Congressional Research Service, Pakistan has made full payment from its national funds towards the purchase of 18 new F-16C/D Fighting Falcon Block 52 combat aircraft worth US$1.43 billion. Also including F-16 armaments including 500 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles; 1,450 2,000-pound bombs; 500 JDAM Tail Kits for gravity bombs; and 1,600 Enhanced Paveway laser-guided kits. All this has cost Pakistan US$629 million. Pakistan has also paid US$298 million for 100 harpoon anti-ship missiles, 500 sidewinder air-to-air missiles (US$95 million); and seven Phalanx Close-In Weapons System naval guns (US$80 million). Under Coalition Support Funds (in the Pentagon budget), Pakistan received 26 Bell 412EP utility helicopters, along with related parts and maintenance, valued at US$235 million.[142]

On February 11, 2016, US government has proposed US$860 million in aid for Pakistan during the 2016–17 fiscal year, including $265 million for military hardware in addition to counterinsurgency funds.[143]

From 2017 to 2020: Gradually alienate[edit]

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan with U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019.

On August 21, 2017, Donald Trump announced his new strategy for Afghan War and accused Pakistan of providing safe havens to terrorists. "The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices, but Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people", Trump said.[144] Moreover, Trump also urged India for its role in the war.[145] Trump's speech led to rise of anti-American sentiments in Pakistan and protests against Trump were held across the country.[146] Two months later, Trump tweeted that he was starting to develop better relations with the Pakistani government.[147]

On January 1, 2018, Donald Trump again criticized Pakistan, saying "they have given us nothing but lies and deceit".[148] President Trump also announced cancelling a $300 million disbursement to Pakistan, citing the country's failure to take strong actions against Afghan Taliban militants and their safe havens in Pakistan.[149] In February 2018, the Trump administration moved to change Pakistan's status into 'Grey List' of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF),[150] pressuring Pakistan to take action against terrorist financing in its territory.[151]

However, the relations between the two countries improved after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan visited United States and met President Donald Trump.[150] Many experts viewed Khan's visit to United States as 'reset in the bilateral relationship between the two countries'. President Trump called for dramatically strengthening trade ties between Pakistan and the United States as America is a top export destination for Pakistan.[150] President Trump also offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. However, Trump's offer was immediately rejected by Indian foreign office.[150]

In September 2019, during a joint rally at Houston, Trump refused to endorse India's repeated allegations against Pakistan.[152] After the joint rally, Trump called himself a 'friend' of Pakistan and termed Imran Khan as a 'great leader'.[153]

In January 2020, President Trump once again held a meeting with Prime Minister Khan in Davos, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. President Trump hailed the growing relationship between the United States and Pakistan.[154] He said that United States has never been closer with Pakistan than it is currently under his administration. This was the third meeting between the two countries and Trump once again offered to mediate on Kashmir issue. His remarks were welcomed by Prime Minister Khan.[154]

After U.S. withdraws Afghanistan[edit]

U.S. "clearly distanced" itself from Pakistan after the United States troops withdraws Afghanistan in 2021,[155] Imran Khan describing it as Afghans breaking "the shackles of slavery".[156] Pakistan declined an invitation to America's 'Summit for Democracy' under the Biden administration.[157]

During the 2022 Pakistani constitutional crisis, Imran Khan blamed the US officials Donald Lu and named the United States as the country in question over a "threatening letter", warns American "regime change" led to his downfall.[158] During the start of the war Imran Khan paid a visit to Russia and responded to a rally, he said "Are we your slaves? What do you think of us? That we are your slaves and that we will do whatever you ask of us? We are friends of Russia, and we are also friends of the United States. We are friends of China and Europe. We are not part of any alliance."[159]

In a statement released at the end of the 'Fourth Annual US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue', the United States and India call on Pakistan to take "irreversible action" to ensure that its soil is not used for terrorist attacks against any other country.[160]

Pakistani Foreign Minister (2022-2023) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari delivers remarks to U.S diplomats

In October 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden called Pakistan "one of the most dangerous nations in the world" during an address in California while speaking about the changing global geopolitical situation. Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari rejected the statement as baseless, and the country's acting foreign secretary summoned the U.S. ambassador for an explanation of Biden's remarks.[161][162]

Since the Pakistani government decided to import Russian oil in 2023, Dawn claimed the United States had demonstrated positive relations with Pakistan by allowing them to purchase oil from Russia at a discounted price, despite not signing a Washington-backed price cap on Russian petroleum products.[163]

In April 2023, a secret memo written by Pakistani Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar was leaked to the press where she called for prioritizing ties with China over appeasing the U.S. within the context of the U.S.-China geopolitical rivalry.[164]

In response to the crackdown on former Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistani-American advocacy groups were mobilizing members of the US Congress to issue statements against human rights abuses in Pakistan, further estranging the bilateral relationship.[165]

In August 2023, according to a leaked diplomatic cable at the March 7, 2022 meeting from Pakistan received by The Intercept, US State department encouraged removal of Imran Khan owing to his neutral stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[159] CNN reports that most Pakistanis believe the US involved in a plot against Imran Khan.[166]

Relations after the 2024 elections in Pakistan[edit]

On March 29, 2024, President Biden wrote to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, affirming Washington's support for Pakistan in addressing global and regional challenges.[167] This marked the first official correspondence between a U.S. President and a Pakistani Prime Minister in several years.[168]

Earlier in the same month, Democratic lawmakers urged President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to delay recognition of the new Pakistani government until thorough investigations into election irregularities were completed.[169][170] They cited evidence of violations and disruptions on election day.

Meetings between Pakistani and U.S. leaders[edit]

Visits by leaders of Pakistan[171][edit]

Visitor Date Description
Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan May 3–5, 1950 Official visit. Afterward visited New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans (Louisiana), Schenectady (New York), and Boston (Massachusetts). Departed U.S. May 30.
Governor General Malik Ghulam Muhammad November 8–13, 1953 Met with President Eisenhower after obtaining medical treatment in Boston.
Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Bogra October 14–21, 1954 Official guest.
Prime Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy July 10–13, 1957 Official visit. Afterward visited Colorado Springs (Colorado), the Grand Canyon (Arizona), Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City (Utah), Omaha (Nebraska), Detroit (Michigan), and New York City. Departed U.S. July 27.
President Field Marshal Ayub Khan July 11–14, 1961 State visit. Addressed U.S. Congress July 12. Afterward visited New York City, Gettysburg (Pennsylvania), San Antonio, Austin, and the LBJ Ranch (Texas). Departed U.S. July 18.
President Field Marshal Ayub Khan September 24, 1962 Informal meeting at Newport (Rhode Island). Afterward visited Washington and New York City. Departed U.S. September 27.
President Field Marshal Ayub Khan December 14–16, 1965 State visit. Arrived in U.S. December 12; visited New York City.
President General Yahya Khan October 24–25, 1970 Attended White House dinner on 25th Anniversary of the U.N; met privately with Richard Nixon on October 25.
Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto September 18–20, 1973 Official visit. In U.S. September 17–24; visited Williamsburg, San Francisco, and New York City.
Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto February 4–7, 1975 Official visit. Afterward visited New York City. Departed U.S. February 8.
President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq October 3, 1980 Private visit while attending U.N. General Assembly session.
President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq December 6–9, 1982 State visit; visited New York City, Houston, Sacramento, and San Francisco. Departed U.S. December 14.
President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq October 23, 1985 Met with President Reagan in New York City at reception and luncheon at the U.N.
Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo July 15–18, 1986 Official Visit; visited Orlando (Fla.) and New York City. Departed U.S. July 22.
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto June 5–7, 1989 Official Visit; visited Boston and New York City. Departed U.S. June 10.
President Farooq Leghari May 23–27, 1994 Arrived in U.S. May 21; departed June 1. Also visited Rochester, NY. Met with President Bill Clinton during a private visit. Later visited New York City.
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto April 9–11, 1995 Official working visit. Arrived in the U.S. April 5; also visited New York City and Los Angeles. Departed the U.S. April 14.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif September 22, 1997 Met with President Bill Clinton at the UN General Assembly in New York City.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif September 21, 1998 Met with President Clinton at the U.N. General Assembly in New York City.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif December 1, 1998 Official working visit.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif July 4–5, 1999 Discussed the Kashmir conflict with President Bill Clinton during a private visit.
President Pervez Musharraf November 10, 2001 Met with George W. Bush at the UN General Assembly in New York City.
President Pervez Musharraf February 12–14, 2002 Official Working Visit.
President Pervez Musharraf September 12, 2002 Met with President Bush at the UN General Assembly in New York City.
President Pervez Musharraf June 23–27, 2003 Working visit. Met with President Bush in Washington, DC and Camp David. Arrived in Boston June 20; later visited Los Angeles.
President Pervez Musharraf September 24, 2003 Met with President Bush at the UN General Assembly in New York City.
Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali September 30-October 4, 2003 Working visit, meet U.S. President
President Pervez Musharraf September 21–22, 2004 Met with President Bush at the UN General Assembly in New York City.
President Pervez Musharraf December 3–4, 2004 Working visit.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz January 22–24, 2006 Working visit. Arrived in the U.S. January 19; also visited New York City and Boston.
President Pervez Musharraf September 20–22, 2006 Working visit.
President Pervez Musharraf September 27, 2006 Also met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on September 27.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani July 27–30, 2008 Working visit.
President Asif Ali Zardari September 23, 2008 Met with President Bush at the UN General Assembly in New York City.
President Asif Ali Zardari September 24–25, 2009 Attended a meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan in New York City
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani April 11–13, 2010 Attended the Nuclear Security Summit.
President Asif Ali Zardari January 14, 2011 Attended Richard Holbrooke's memorial service.
President Asif Ali Zardari May 21, 2012 Met with President Obama at the NATO summit in Chicago.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif October 20–23, 2013 Met with President Obama at the Oval Office.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif October 20–23, 2015 Met with President Obama at the Oval Office.
Prime Minister Imran Khan July 21–23, 2019 Met with President Trump at the Oval Office.

Visits by Presidents of the United States[172][edit]

Visitor Date Description
Dwight D. Eisenhower December 7–9, 1959 Informal visit to Karachi; met with President Ayub Khan.
Lyndon B. Johnson December 23, 1967 Visit to Karachi; met with President Ayub Khan.
Richard Nixon August 1–2, 1969 State visit; met with President Yahya Khan.
Bill Clinton March 25, 2000 Met with President Muhammad Rafiq Tarar and Pervez Musharraf; delivered radio address.
George W. Bush March 3–4, 2006 Visit to Islamabad, met with Pervez Musharraf.

Military aid and exchanges[edit]

The United States and Pakistan's military have historically close ties, reflecting shared interests in security and stability in South Asia, Central Asia as well as in regions covering Eastern Europe.[173] While Pakistan had close security cooperation with the United States during the Cold War, as the United States canceled all military aid to Pakistan in the 2010s, Pakistan increasingly turned to military cooperation with China.[174]

Historical assistance from the U.S.[edit]

US Army soldiers intercept illegal lumber smuggled through Kunar Province in Afghanistan into neighboring Pakistan.
US DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy with Senior Pakistan government officials right in front of the Afghan-Pakistani border.

From 1948 to 2013, the United States has provided a total of US$30 billion in aid to Pakistan,[175] half of it for military purposes. Of these aid and funds arrangement, Pakistan was obligated to spend these monetary funds by purchasing American goods, food, and other services.[176][177][178] In spite of China being the largest importer and exporter for Pakistan's market, the United States continues to be one of the largest sources of foreign direct investment in Pakistan and is Pakistan's largest export market.[176] With U.S. military assistance suspended in 2018 and civilian aid reduced to about $300 million for 2022, Pakistani authorities have turned to other countries for help.[6]

According to Pakistani officials, 70,000 civilians and more than 10,000 troops and policemen in Pakistan have died fighting the American War on Terror, for which the United States has promised to fulfill all the expenditures of the war. A leading recipient of US military assistance, Pakistan expects to receive approximately $20 billion since 2001 a combination of reimbursement to Pakistan and training programs for the Pakistan counter-terrorism units. However, Pakistan claimed the US has not compensated as much as half of that money, but has only claimed so in the media.[179] In the aftermath of the Osama bin Laden raid, Pakistan Army canceled a $500 million training program and sent all 135 trainers home. The United States showed displeasure at this act and withheld a further $300 million in assistance.[180]

Some politicians in Pakistan argue the war on terror has cost the Pakistani economy $70 billion and U.S. aid costs the country more in the long term, leading to accusations that the US is making Pakistan a client state.[181]

On 31 May 2012, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) called for the United States to suspend all aid to Pakistan and grant citizenship to a doctor who was jailed for helping hunt down Osama bin Laden.[182]

Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad demanded a "complete isolation policy" for Pakistan. He said that if Pakistan does not stop backing radicalism and extremism, the United States should suspend all aid to it and treat it as a second North Korea.[183]

On 5 January 2018, US suspended about $2 billion in security aid to Pakistan for failing to clamp down on the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network terror groups and dismantle their safe havens, a White House official said.[184]

The freezing of all security assistance to Pakistan comes after President Donald Trump in a New Year's Day tweet accused the country of giving nothing to the US but "lies and deceit" and providing "safe haven" to terrorists in return for $33 billion aid since 2003.[185]

Dispute from cancellation of military aid by America[edit]

On September 1, 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that they cancel the transfer of approximately $300 million in military aid to Pakistan.[186] According to The Economic Times, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi stated, "The USD 300 million is neither aid nor assistance – it is the money Pakistan spent from its resources against militants and in the war against terrorism. This is the money they (US) are supposed to reimburse, but now either they are not willing or unable to pay back."[187] The US is stating that the aid was part of the Coalition Support Fund (CFS) and was not previously owed to the country. The reason for the additional removal of aid, since the initial $500 million aid withdrawal in January 2018, is due to a lack of effort by the Pakistan Government in combating terrorist organizations in their country.[188][189] The issue over the funding caused tensions in both countries. On September 5, 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pakistan, the first visit of the Trump administration, but did not discuss the postponement of aid to the country.[190][191]

Space science programs[edit]

In the 1990s, U.S. and the Missile Technology Control Regime put restrictions on Pakistan's space program in amid fear that the country's alleged covert development of missile programs. The U.S. began cooperation with Pakistan in peaceful space technology in the 1960s after establishing the Sonmiani Terminal in 1961, constructing an airfield and launch pad. In 1962, the Space Research Commission launched the first solid-fuel rocket, Rehbar-I, built with close interaction with the U.S. NASA. Launching of the rocket made Pakistan the first South Asian country and tenth country in the world to carrying out the launch of the rocket. During the 1962 and 1972, approximately 200 rockets were fired from the Sonmiani, but this cooperation waned after 1972.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, U.S. tightened its embargo and construction on Pakistan's space development, and in 1998, putting restrictions and sanctions on premier astronautics research department, DESTO, although the sanctions were uplifted in 2001 by the Bush administration.[192]

Cultural influence[edit]

There is some presence of US based fast food chains in Pakistan such as Pizza Hut, KFC and McDonald's.[193] South Asian cuisine including Pakistani also has a prominent presence in the USA.[194]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Abbas, H. Pakistan's Drift into Extremism Allah, the Army and America's War on Terror (M. E. Sharpe, 2005).
  • Bashir, Sadaf. "Pakistan's Engagement As A Frontline State In The US-Led ‘War On Terror’: Political, Economic And Strategic Dimensions" (Diss. Qurtuba University Of Science & Information Technology Peshawar (Pakistan), 2015.) online
  • Buck, Brandan P. "Brokering a Buffer State: Afghan Neutrality and American Diplomacy, 1973–1979." International History Review (2018): 1-20.
  • Choudhury, G.W. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Major Powers: Politics of a Divided Subcontinent (1975), relations with US, USSR and China.
  • Grimmett, Richard F. "US arms sales to Pakistan." (U.S. Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, 2008) online
  • Haqqani, Husain (2013), Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding, PublicAffairs, ISBN 978-1-61039-451-2
  • Hathaway, R. M. The Leverage Paradox: Pakistan and the United States. (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars 2017).
  • Hilali, A. Z. US-Pakistan relationship: Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (Routledge, 2017).
  • Khan, Mahrukh. "Pakistan-US Relations: Rethinking the Dependency Relationship." Strategic Studies 39.4 (2019). online
  • Kronstadt, K. Alan. "Pakistan-US relations." (U.S. Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, 2009) online.
  • McMahon, Robert J. Cold War on the Periphery: The United States, India and Pakistan (1994) excerpt and text search
  • Malik, Naeem Mahboob, and Syed Khawaja Alqama. "Pakistan-US Relations: A Critical Analysis of Influence in post 9/11 Era." Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences (PJSS) 40.1 (2020): 33–42. online
  • Pant, Harsh V. "The Pakistan thorn in China–India–US relations." Washington Quarterly 35.1 (2012): 83–95. online
  • Powers, Thomas, "The War without End" (review of Steve Coll, Directorate S: The CIA and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Penguin, 2018, 757 pp.), The New York Review of Books, vol. LXV, no. 7 (19 April 2018), pp. 42–43.
  • Riedel, Bruce (2012). Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 978-0815722748.
  • — (2013). Avoiding Armageddon: America, India, and Pakistan to the Brink and Back. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 978-0815724087.
  • — (2014). What We Won: America's Secret War in Afghanistan, 1979–89. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 978-0815725855.
  • Schaffer, Howard B.; Schaffer, Teresita C. (2011), How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States: Riding the Roller Coaster, US Institute of Peace Press, ISBN 978-1-60127-075-7
  • Raghavan, Srinath. The Most Dangerous Place: A History of the United States in South Asia. (Penguin Random House India, 2018); also published as Fierce Enigmas: A History of the United States in South Asia.(2018). online review; also see excerpt; focus on India, Pakistan and Afghanistan; see pp 479–80 and passim.
  • Sultana, Razia. "Major Threats to Pakistan in the Wake of US Withdrawal from Afghanistan: The Case of FATA and KP." FWU Journal of Social Sciences 1.1 (2015): 64. online
  • Wirsing, Robert G., and James M. Roherty. "The United States and Pakistan." International Affairs 58.4 (1982): 588-609 online.

External links[edit]