Poll: Despite aid, Pakistanis view U.S. as the enemy

Posted: June 30, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - In the last couple of years, Washington has earmarked a bigger chunk of its aid to Pakistan for civilian projects, hoping to engender goodwill with the country's intensely anti-American populace. The latest polling suggests that the strategy has not worked.

About 75 percent of Pakistanis surveyed regard the United States as an enemy, according to a poll released this week by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. That's actually up more than 10 percent since three years ago, when 64 percent said they viewed America as an enemy.

A key reason for the ongoing ill will appears to be the United States' use of drone strikes as a tactic against Islamist militants based in Pakistan.

According to the Pew survey, only 17 percent of Pakistanis surveyed said they support the strikes. Pakistanis even appear less willing to back the use of their own military against Islamist extremists. In the new survey, 32 percent supported the use of Pakistani security forces, a sizable drop from 53 percent three years ago.

A growing number of Pakistanis also feel that improving relations with Washington is not a major priority, the poll found. Last year, 60 percent of Pakistanis surveyed said strengthening ties with the United States was important; this year only 45 percent said they feel that way.

The United States channels hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic aid to Pakistan every year. Much of that aid is aimed at targeting such civilian needs as limiting Pakistan's crippling power crisis and improving its weak education system.

Yet about 40 percent of Pakistanis surveyed said they think that U.S. economic and military assistance actually has a negative effect on their country. Only 12 percent said they believe that economic assistance from Washington helps solve problems in Pakistan.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan are at their lowest point since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Anger resounds over American air strikes that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November, the secret U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the military city of Abbottabad in May 2011, which Pakistanis viewed as a blatant breach of their sovereignty, and the killing of two Pakistanis by a CIA contractor in the eastern city of Lahore in January 2011.

Those events have served as rallying cries for a Pakistani population that for years has viewed Washington as arrogant and untrustworthy.

The Obama administration's heavy reliance on drone missile attacks as a primary tactic against Islamic militants in Pakistan's tribal northwest has further intensified Pakistan's animosity toward the United States.

Pakistanis view the drone attacks as violations of their country's sovereignty and point out that they result in the deaths of civilians as well as militants.

The Pew survey was based on 1,206 face-to-face interviews with Pakistanis between March 28 and April 13.

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