WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Clashes last week between U.S. and Pakistani forces along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border underscore the growing tension between the two allies in the war on terrorism. A Gallup Poll of Pakistanis in June revealed that before the border incidents in September, few residents perceived their country as benefiting from cooperation between the United States and Pakistan.
Gallup's polling shows Pakistanis were more likely to view U.S.-Pakistan cooperation in the war on terrorism as benefiting the United States rather than their own country. A third of Pakistanis (33%) said cooperation in the last few years has mostly benefited the United States, while at most 1 in 10 said it has mostly benefited Pakistan (7%), benefited both countries equally (9%), or benefited neither (10%). However, it's important to note that the plurality of Pakistanis (42%) did not express an opinion.
U.S. Military Perceived as a Threat
The United States last month intensified its cross-border attacks on militants inside Pakistan, including its first-known ground assault. The incursion triggered outrage across Pakistan, and its new president issued a warning last week to "friends" who violate the country's territory and sovereignty.
Although the United States has since affirmed its support for Pakistan's sovereignty and pledged increased cooperation, the assertion will likely do little to ease concerns among many Pakistanis who already perceived the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan as a threat. More than 4 in 10 Pakistanis (45%) told Gallup in June they think this situation poses a threat to Pakistan, while 17% think it does not and a sizable 38% did not express an opinion.
A U.S. military presence in Asia, in general, appears to disturb just as many Pakistanis as does a military presence in neighboring Afghanistan. Forty-three percent of residents said a military presence in Asia threatens Pakistan, while 17% said it does not and 40% had no opinion.
Pakistanis' perceptions that the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan or Asia imperils their country, as well as their belief that Pakistan has reaped little from joint anti-terrorism efforts, may be colored by the surge in attacks by Islamic extremists in Pakistan since July last year and increasing frustration with their government's own efforts to combat terrorism.
So, the recent friction between the two allies presents a crucial test for Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, who faces mounting internal pressure to assert his country's sovereignty and external pressure to maintain U.S. relations -- all while battling a rising insurgency. The stakes are high; analysts suggest that the growing rift between the powerful military and new civilian government over the situation could become a fissure and may lead to a return to military rule.
Survey MethodsResults are based face-to-face interviews with approximately 802 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2008 in Pakistan. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.