Conflict & Justice

Bin Laden raid hasn't damaged US reputation in Pakistan


Pakistanis set fire to a U.S. flag during a protest in Multan on May 21, 2011.


S.S. Mizra

A new poll released today by the Pew Research Center found that Pakistanis, while they disapproved of the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden outside of Islamabad in May, don't dislike the United States any more than they did before the raid.

That might be because opinions of the U.S. in Pakistan before the raid had already fallen to record lows.

The new poll found that just 12 percent of Pakistanis have a positive view of the United States and only 8 percent are confident that U.S. President Barack Obama will do the right thing when it comes to world affairs. That's pretty abysmal. But it's hardly different than before the raid when the Pew Research Center conducted another poll that found that only 11 percent of Pakistanis had a favorable view of the United States and 75 percent had unfavorable view.

That puts Obama and the United States at about the same level as Al Qaeda and the Taliban, both of which received approval ratings of about 12 percent.

Many Pakistanis view U.S. military campaigns inside their country as just as damaging as militant activities. That negative view is only increasing as the United States increases its use of unmanned drone attacks in North Waziristan, civilians in the region have told GlobalPost. The drone attacks, while killing a number of Taliban leaders in the volatile region, have at the same time so far killed more than a thousand civilians, according to some estimates.

(GlobalPost in North Waziristan: Obama's hidden war)

Just as they do militants, most Pakistanis in fact view the United States as an enemy and potential military threat, according to the new poll.

Interestingly, about 30 percent of Pakistanis believe that their own government and military played a role in the raid that killed bin Laden, a statistic the Pakistani government has been actively trying to avoid for fear of a public backlash, some security analysts in the country have said. Those analysts believe the government has publicly condemned the raid, as well as the drone attacks, to curry favor with a public that disapproves so strongly with U.S. incursions in their country, while privately giving the green light for such incursions.

Virtually no Pakistanis think the United States takes into account Pakistani interests when developing its foreign policy for the region and about 70 percent said that they wanted U.S. and NATO forces to withdraw from neighboring Afghanistan. Sixty percent said they opposed U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.

The poll seems to indicate that the U.S. counter-terrorism strategy, which primarily aims to win over hearts and minds to deter local populations from sympathizing with militants and to encourage them to support their central goverment, is not really working. The strategy was authored by U.S. General David Petraeus and first used in Iraq. It is now a major part of the war strategy in Afghanistan.

In the defense of the United States, it's hard to convince local populations to support a central government that they view as largely ineffectual. About 92 percent of the population believes the country is headed in the wrong direction and President Asif Ali Zardari received an approval rating of just 11 percent, according the poll.