While activists clashed with Chicago police to protest the NATO summit in Chicago this week, the U.S. and Pakistan were having their own stand-off inside the meeting.
According to reports from the conference, U.S. President Barack Obama and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari barely spoke despite an ongoing dispute concerning Pakistan’s decision to block a supply route for NATO troops into Afghanistan. The country has blocked the passage to protest NATO killing 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
While U.S. officials may be hopeful that Pakistan will open the border to NATO the situation may not be cleared up so easily, Asia Society Senior Advisor Hassan Abbas said on an Al Jazeera program.
“I’m not very hopeful that something will happen very soon because Pakistani military and civilian leadership are not on the same page, and I think that is an issue,” said Abbas, a former Pakistani government official who is directing an Asia Society project on police reform in Pakistan with a report to be launched in June 2012. "When it comes to Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani group, the most important group, there is a disconnect — the civilian side, the civilian law enforcement, the political leadership, even if they want to do something about it they cannot."
Two problems have been making the Pakistan-U.S. relationship difficult, added Ahmed Rashid, author most recently of Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
The issue from the U.S.-side is that Pakistan has been harboring high-level Afghan Taliban leaders who may return to the country once combat troops withdraw. Meanwhile, Pakistan officials feel they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to the wind-down of NATO and U.S. military operations in Pakistan.
“Essentially these are the two outstanding problems that have been getting worse and worse,” Rashid said.