Following the annus horriblis of 2011, US-Pakistan relations are finally looking up. The strategic dialogue between the two countries has resumed with a realistic scope and calibrated expectations. The defense relationship is settling back into polite engagements focused on multi-year assistance planning. The US Congress, meanwhile, is distracted by crises in Syria and Ukraine, and the Pakistani elite are focusing their anxieties on militancy at home and the upcoming elections in Afghanistan and India.
These apparent signs of normality are just enough to make longtime Pakistan-watchers nervous. There are many changes afoot in the region — among them, civil-military developments in Pakistan, elections in India and Afghanistan, and the ongoing drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan — that have the potential to bring about a shift in Pakistan’s relationship with the United States.
Two such changes deserve particular attention. The first is what is bound to be a dynamic political environment in Afghanistan following the presidential elections on April 5, and the new government’s eventual decision regarding a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States. The second concerns the prospect of a large-scale Pakistani military operation in North Waziristan, many times rumored and many times deferred.
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