Obama said he hoped the parliamentary review would take a "balanced approach that respects Pakistan's sovereignty, but also respects our concerns with respect to our national security and our needs to battle terrorists who have targeted us in the past".
This was the sole reference to Bin Laden, whose killing in a military town within several hours' drive of the Pakistani capital strained U.S. belief that he could have lived there for years without the knowledge of someone in the government.
“If Parliament compromises on the security and sovereignty of the country, then we cannot guarantee the security of the lawmakers,” said Maulana Sami ul-Haq, head of the alliance, as hundreds of protesters chanted anti-American slogans.
The U.S.-Pakistan relationship and success in Afghanistan have been tied together since the beginning of the U.S. war on terror in 2001. The Pakistani government aided the United States in capturing terrorist suspects, and after the war in Afghanistan began, Pakistan served as a major supply route for allied forces. But working closely with Pakistan on Afghan border control and terrorism has had its challenges.
"There have been times -- I think we should be candid -- over the last several months where those relations have had periods of strains," Obama said at the start of the meeting with Gilani. "But I welcome the fact that the Parliament of Pakistan is reviewing, after some extensive study, the nature of this relationship."
"We need to work through some of the tensions that have inevitably arisen after 10 years of our military presence in that region," Obama said later. "I don't want to paper over real challenges there.
As late as 2010, Pakistan and the United States were engaged in a high-level strategic dialogue focused on building a long-term partnership.
Since then, the governments have spent most of their time on crisis management, from the Raymond Davis affair and the Osama Bin Laden raid and its aftermath to the Salala border incident in November that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead.
Polls show Pakistanis see America, not India or al Qaeda, as their mortal enemy. The Pakistanis are looking for who helped the CIA find bin Laden, not who helped hide him for 10 years. Congress increasingly sees Pakistan as a bad investment gone sour. The White House rightly won't give up the drones when Pakistan coddles terrorists like Saeed.
Pakistani-American relations are broken. President Obama refused to meet with President Asif Ali Zardari at the Chicago NATO summit last month. The new head of Pakistani intelligence—the ISI—canceled his trip to Langley to see the CIA. Pakistan wants an apology for the NATO attack last November that killed two dozen of its soldiers
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they made clear that Obama would meet with President Asif Ali Zardari only if a deal was reached to reopen the NATO supply lines to Afghanistan before the Chicago summit. U.S. officials said they had Pakistani assurances that a deal was imminent, and the failure to close a deal before Zardari’s arrival was one more blow to Pakistan’s standing with the administration.
“We are reaching the limits of our patience, and for that reason it’s extremely important that Pakistan take action” to crack down on armed groups based there that attack American and coalition forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday in Kabul.