Osama bin Laden’s death in Pakistan last week at the hands of Navy SEALs was a moral and symbolic victory for the U.S., but it complicated the already tense relationship between the Obama administration and Islamabad. The feeling in Washington is that the Pakistanis either were complicit in hiding bin Laden or are simply incompetent. Pakistanis, meanwhile, are furious the Americans violated their country’s sovereignty by mounting a covert mission deep inside their territory without the government’s knowledge or consent. Voices on both sides are questioning whether the alliance can survive.
Yet the U.S. can no more afford to scrap its relationship with Pakistan than Pakistanis can afford to break with Washington. Awkward as the truth may be, Pakistan and the U.S. need each other to prosecute the war on terror. And for that reason they are going to have to learn to get along despite the hard feelings over bin Laden’s killing, because the price of failing to cooperate could be disastrous for both countries.