In an exclusive interview of US Charge d’Affaires and acting Ambassador, Richard Hoagland, with The Nation and Nawa-i-Waqt, the Ambassador remained largely silent on the subject of drones, save to say that negative public opinion to the drone programme was a cause of concern. Perhaps the first such admission by a US diplomat, it was a kindly worded gesture, which is not to be confused with indication of reconsideration or cessation. He did, however, leave a tantalizing hint that the idea that PAF F16s targeting suspected militant hotspots instead, having received no encouragement was a “misperception”. This is a small gleam of hope for the drone programme being replaced by a Pakistani solution. Efforts have been underway, punctuated by demarches issued from the Foreign Office and condemnations by the Foreign Secretary and Minister, to find a publicly acceptable method to supplant the hugely unpopular drone programme of questionable legality, with a Pakistani controlled and administered mechanism. Such

efforts must continue. Any action that is to be taken on Pakistani soil, must be under the laws of the land by the Pakistani military, acting under the command of the people’s elected representatives in the Pakistani government.

Ambassador Hoagland’s admission that Pakistan’s concern over Indian boots on Afghan ground and Indian military presence on the other side of the Durand Line was understandable, given the tumultuous 65 year history between the two acrimonious neighbours, while welcome, does not translate into that concern changing any US decision over including India in a prominent role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan post 2014. However, by saying that Pakistan and Afghanistan are not only neighbours, but brothers, Mr Hoagland implicitly acknowledged that the Afghan situation, particularly after the withdrawal of foreign troops, required significant Pakistani input.

The relations between Pakistan and the US have remained strained over the last few months, with the 2 May Abbotabad raid and Salalah attack marking the lowest ebb of relations. Between that, the Raymond Davis incident, GLOCs being suspended, then reopened and a breakdown in intelligence communication, trust between the two ostensible allies is almost nonexistent. All of the above Pakistani concerns will be met with, at best scepticism and at worst insouciance – as will US concerns in Pakistani policy making circles - till such time as the trust deficit can be bridged. As matters stand today, intelligence cooperation has restarted, but is still in the nascent stages of building up to anything resembling previous levels. While over a billion dollars in the Coalition Support Fund were received immediately after the GLOCs opened, $0.5 billion dollars of aid have been cut by the US Congress, which was meant to add up to $1.5 billion in total. The Ambassador designate to Pakistan, Mr Richard Olson, awaits confirmation after Senator Rand Paul blocked his confirmation following the Shakil Afridi conviction. Pakistan and the US, as they weigh a respectful distancing from each other or as former Ambassador Haqqani suggested, “a divorce”, the reality is that such a break in relations is neither possible, nor commendable. Pakistani concerns are absolutely valid and some US concerns will find a sympathetic hearing in Islamabad – if a demonstration of trust between the two can be made and then multiplied over the next few months. Allies which do not realise each other’s worth and cannot rely on being treated with respect, are not allies, but victims of never-ending suspicion and paranoia. To salvage the relationship and to make it mutually beneficial and respectful, one hopes the Ambassador’s words are prescient, that, “There is always time and … there is always enough energy.”