The Growing Role of the United States in Pakistan’s Security Policy

Similar Posts

This post is also available in: Türkçe Русский

Following the withdrawal of the United States of America (USA) from Afghanistan, various terrorist organizations are known to have exploited the power vacuum in the country. These organizations include the terrorist organization Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and separatist Baloch groups. Consequently, this situation has led to an increase in Pakistan’s security-based concerns. In particular, the withdrawal of the terrorist organization TTP from the ceasefire agreement it had signed with the Islamabad administration in November 2022 and its attacks have deepened Pakistan’s security concerns. In this environment, the United States stands out as a prominent partner in Pakistan’s security policies.

In fact, Washington’s positioning reveals that the US welcomed the multi-faceted and multi-dimensional foreign policy approach of the Islamabad administration led by Shahbaz Sharif after the ouster of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, which balances the power centers..

At this point, it should be emphasized that Pakistan avoids relations that would create unilateral dependence in order to overcome economic problems and ensure its national security in a geography characterized by instability. Therefore, Islamabad, on the one hand, wants to maintain its relations with Beijing and strives for the realization of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); on the other hand, it is taking steps to restore its relations with the West.

The US is trying to improve its relations with Pakistan for three reasons. The first is to distance Pakistan from China to some extent and thereby expand its containment strategy against Beijing. However, it is believed that Islamabad will not accept to be part of the anti-China strategy and will not act according to the directions of the White House.

Secondly, Washington is uncomfortable with India’s relations with Russia, to which it attributes a critical role in its “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”. In this sense, the White House is trying to use the improvement of relations with Pakistan as a message to India, saying “You are not my only partner in South Asia”. Thus, it seeks to transform New Delhi’s foreign policy orientations to internalize a US-oriented politics. However, given the tradition of “non-alignment” in India’s foreign policy and its vision of global power, it is not possible to say that the US will get exactly what it wants from India..

In other words, both Pakistan and India do not want to be dominated by a global power; on the contrary, they see their relations with the US as part of their multilateral and multidimensional policies based on balance. In other words, the priority for both actors is their own national interests.

The third is the US effort to maintain its influence in Afghanistan, from where it withdrew on August 31, 2021, on the occasion of relations with Pakistan. Despite having withdrawn from the country, the US both cares about preventing its rivals from increasing their influence in Afghanistan due to its location in the heartland of the world and believes that it is necessary to maintain its influence in Afghanistan in the context of the fight against terrorism. Therefore, for Washington, surveillance and reconnaissance flights through the use of Pakistani airspace are of utmost importance. At the same time, through the use of Pakistani airspace, the US also conducts counter-terrorism operations through unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The most concrete example of this is the neutralization of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda.

As it can be understood, Pakistan wants to improve its relations with the US as part of its multilateral foreign policy to strengthen its national sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, while Washington attaches importance to its relations with Islamabad in order to contain China, send messages to India and maintain its intelligence and operational influence in Afghanistan.This opens the door to the formation of a mutually win-win relationship between the parties. It is possible to state that security policies are also included in these relations.

As mentioned, while the US is conducting its counterterrorism strategy by using Pakistani airspace, it is also targeting the TTP terrorist organization during these operations. As a matter of fact, many leaders of the organization have been killed by US drone strikes. It is known that after Zawahiri’s killing, TTP terrorists were neutralized in US drone strikes. It would not be wrong to interpret this as a reflection of the US gratitude for allowing Pakistan to use its airspace. Therefore, it is a mutually beneficial relationship.

The recent messages from Washington are of great importance as they indicate that the security-based cooperation between the two sides will move to a higher level. This is because the Washington administration has announced that the US seeks a strong partnership with Pakistan in the fight against terrorism and expects sustained action against all terrorist groups without discrimination. The US justified this expectation with the increase in attacks by the terrorist organization TTP.[1]

Shortly after the aforementioned statement, a much more concrete and clear statement came from Washington. Speaking on January 3, 2022, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price stated that Pakistan has the right to defend itself against terrorism and that the people of Pakistan have suffered from terrorist attacks.[2]  In this context, the US has also pledged to increase security measures on the border with Pakistan.[3] Undoubtedly, this means that the US will continue to use Pakistani airspace and increase drone strikes against the TTP terrorist organization in response.

As a result, while Pakistan is developing its relations with the United States as part of its balanced and multidimensional foreign policy approach, the Washington administration attaches importance to its relations with Islamabad in order to contain China, send some messages to India and maintain its influence in Afghanistan. This opens the door for the development of relations between the parties in the security dimension. At the same time, the US statements drawing attention to Pakistan’s national security are noteworthy in that they reveal that Islamabad’s Western orientation is welcomed by Washington.

[1] “US Pledges to Improve Security across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border”, Khaama Press,, (Date of Accession: 05.01.2023).

[2] “Pakistan Has Right to Defend Itself from Terrorism”, Ary News,, (Date of Accession: 04.01.2023).

[3] Ibid.

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.