What's next for US and Pakistan

The first anti-American demonstrations have already taken place in Pakistan, in the city of Quetta, which might have sheltered al Qaeda leaders in the past.

What's next for U.S.-Pakistani relations after the daring U.S. raid deep inside Pakistan by Navy SEALs? Anti-American sentiment has long been running high in Pakistan over the drone attacks along the border with Afghanistan and is now gaining traction in urban society. Pakistan’s charismatic opposition leader, Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician, has been stirring things up in recent days, warning that if the Predator attacks continue, Pakistanis would block NATO supplies to Afghanistan.

The issue of Pakistani sovereignty is therefore extremely delicate, particularly in the light of President Obama announcing that “a small team of Americans” had killed the al Qaeda leader. In his speech last night, he referred to Pakistani “counterterrorism cooperation” that helped lead U.S. forces to Osama bin Laden and his compound, but did not thank Pakistani leaders, who were not notified in advance of the attack. He also said pointedly that in the future, “it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.”

The U.S. administration has long accused Pakistan of being duplicitous about its relations with al Qaeda. It seems hard to believe that Pakistan’s intelligence community had failed to detect the building of bin Laden’s compound, a “custom-built” mansion in a town populated by retired military personnel, only 65 miles from Islamabad. John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security, said today that it was "inconceivable” that bin Laden did not have a support system that allowed him to remain “hiding in plain sight” for an extended period of time.

Only two weeks ago, Adm. Mike Mullen expressed the administration’s frustration by going public about the “longstanding relationship” between Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence and the radical Muslim Haqqani clan fighting in Afghanistan.

U.S.-Pakistan relations had sunk to a new low before the announcement of bin Laden’s killing. But this is a critical moment for the fragile democratically elected government of Pakistan, which is struggling to contain the militant threat. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani could easily be destabilized if the aftermath is not handled with care and leads to a backlash. No wonder he was pleading with U.S. officials in Islamabad today to ensure “constructive and positive messaging” of the momentous events of yesterday.

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