According to a new face-to-face survey, 74 percent of Pakistanis view America as an enemy. Tellingly, more Pakistanis have a favorable view of long time arch-enemy India than of the United States.
So say the results of a Pew Research Center poll released on Wednesday, in which 1,206 Pakistanis were surveyed on the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, Islamic extremism, India and their own government.
According to the poll, nearly three out of every four Pakistanis (74 percent) view the United States as an enemy. That's up from 69 percent a year ago. Only 8 percent of poll respondents call America a "partner." Fully 80 percent of Pakistanis gave the U.S. an "unfavorable" rating, a sharp increase from the 68 percent who responded similarly in 2009. Only 12 percent said they held a "favorable" view of the United States.
More than half (58 percent) said relations between Washington and Islamabad have "not improved." Tellingly, only 45 percent said that improving U.S.-Pakistani relations was "important." Far more Pakistanis (62 percent) said it was important to improve relations with longtime arch-rival India. In fact, India received a far higher favorability rating (22 percent) than the United States.
Despite the billions of dollars in U.S. military aid received by Pakistan since the beginning of the War on Terror, only 8 percent of Pakistanis called that assistance "mostly positive." Forty percent said it was "mostly negative." And while survey respondents had little love for the Taliban and al-Qaeda, which both received favorability ratings of just 13 percent, fewer Pakistanis want American intelligence and logistical support than they did three years ago.
Only 17 percent support U.S. drone strikes against Islamic extremists, even if those strikes are carried out in coordination with the Pakistani government. The massive increase in the number of drone strikes inside Pakistan since President Barack Obama took office largely explains why the American president has an abysmal approval rating among Pakistanis: only 7 percent said they have confidence in him, while 60 percent said they had no confidence. That figure is up from 51 percent in 2009. According to a Pew Global Attitudes Project poll released earlier this month, Pakistan is the only country where Obama's favorability numbers are no better than George W. Bush's during his last year in office.
Pakistan, a nuclear-armed Muslim country with a population of 174 million people, bristles at what it considers blatant violations of its sovereignty, both by drone strikes and by U.S. military operations like the May, 2011 Navy SEAL mission that resulted in the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Pakistanis also seethe at what they perceive as American disregard for innocent civilian life. During a live online question-and-answer session hosted by Google Plus in January, President Obama asserted that "drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties." But according to the London-based Bureau for Investigative Journalism, at least 482 and as many as 832 innocent Pakistanis have died as a result of U.S. drone strikes since 2004.
There is also widespread Pakistani fury over Obama administration deception and outright lies regarding drone strike deaths. Speaking about such strikes last June, John Brennan, Obama's counter-terrorism czar, claimed that "in the last year there hasn't been a single death because of the exceptional proficiency [and] precision of the capabilities that we've been able to develop." But the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that at least 45 Pakistani civilians had been killed in 10 U.S. drone strikes during the period in which Brennan claimed there were no deaths.
Furthermore, the New York Times revealed last month that the Obama administration has embraced a deceptive method for tallying casualties in which all military-age males in a strike zone are classified as 'militants' in order to artificially deflate civilian death tolls.
Pakistanis are also enraged by Washington's refusal to apologize for accidental airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops near the Afghan border last November. The Pakistani government shut down NATO's overland supply routes into Afghanistan following those errant strikes, causing detours and delays that have cost the alliance an estimated $100 million per month.
For its part, the United States is frustrated over what it perceives as a lack of full cooperation from Pakistani authorities, especially the state intelligence service, in the fight against Islamic extremists. U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, formerly chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has publicly accused the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency of supporting the Haqqani network, an extremist group that has carried out deadly attacks against U.S. troops and interests in Afghanistan.
Many U.S. observers are also highly skeptical that terrorist leaders like Osama bin Laden could safely hide for so long inside Pakistan without at least the tacit approval of that country's officials.