About the Paper

As the United States and Pakistan approach 75 years of bilateral engagement, the relationship between the two countries is at a critical crossroads. While viewing the US-Pakistan relationship exclusively through the security lens seems to be untenable, the road ahead, in the broader context of the Afghanistan withdrawal and great power competition, remains murky. Nevertheless, there exists a willingness on both sides to avoid the lows of the 1990s even if the highs of the 1980s or 2000s are not possible. It is, therefore, important to understand the interplay of the current state of diverging and converging interests of both countries that may inform the contours of a “right sized” relationship. This discussion paper is a culmination of input received from sectoral and policy experts from both countries on the key areas of concern. It attempts to outline a rethinking of US-Pakistan relations against the background of changing priorities in the region and globally for both the United States and Pakistan.

About the Authors

Hamza Ijaz has served as a member of UNDP Pakistan’s Inclusivity and Governance Cluster for localization of sustainable development goals in Pakistan, as well as team lead for the development of the Punjab IT Policy 2018. Ijaz holds a master’s degree in governance and public policy from the University of Passau, Germany. Ijaz is currently working as a Senior Program Officer at USIP.

Imran Khan is USIP’s country director in Pakistan, where he has taught courses on public policy and governance at the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, and has over 12 years of experience in the social development sector, particularly in the fields of peacebuilding and education reforms. Khan holds a master’s degree in anthropology and development from the London School of Economics.

Maryam Kiyani works as a consultant with USIP. Kiyani previously worked as a research journalist and podcast host at a youth-led and research-driven digital media platform, where she worked on stories on Afghanistan, international relations, society, and gender. She has a BA in history honors from the Lahore University of Management Sciences, where she researched themes of imperialism in South Asia, colonization and decoloniality, state-citizen relationships, and alternate/(re)imagined histories.

Dr. Adnan Rafiq formerly served as USIP’s country director in Pakistan and works on Member Governance, Innovation and Reforms at the Planning Commission of Pakistan. As a consultant on security issues at the Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan, he has led the technical team that formulated the National Internal Security Policy (2018–22). Rafiq holds a PhD in politics from the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford.

This research was funded by USIP’s Asia Center, which is solely responsible for the accuracy and thoroughness of the content.

Related Publications

What Does Further Expansion Mean for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?

What Does Further Expansion Mean for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Last week, foreign ministers from member-states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) gathered in Astana, Kazakhstan. The nine-member SCO — made up of China, India, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — represents one of the largest regional organizations in the world. And with the SCO’s annual heads-of-state summit slated for early July, the ministers’ meeting offers an important glimpse into the group’s priorities going forward. USIP’s Bates Gill and Carla Freeman examine how regional security made its way to the top of the agenda, China’s evolving role in Central Asia and why SCO expansion has led to frustrations among member states.

Type: Question and Answer

Global Policy

Senior Study Group on Counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Final Report

Senior Study Group on Counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Final Report

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

When announcing the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in April 2021, President Joe Biden identified counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan as an enduring and critical US national security interest. This priority became even more pronounced after the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, the discovery of al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul less than a year later, and the increasing threat of the Islamic State of Khorasan (ISIS-K) from Afghanistan. However, owing to the escalating pressures of strategic competition with China and Russia, counterterrorism has significantly dropped in importance in the policy agenda.

Type: Report

Violent Extremism

Why Counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan Still Matters

Why Counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan Still Matters

Thursday, May 9, 2024

From wars in Ukraine and the Middle East to rising tensions in the South China Sea, there is no shortage of crises to occupy the time and attention of U.S. policymakers. But three years after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the threat of terrorism emanating from South Asia remains strong and policymakers need to be more vigilant. Indeed, at the end of March, an Afghanistan-based affiliate of ISIS launched a devastating attack outside of Moscow, killing over 140 people.

Type: Question and Answer

Global PolicyViolent Extremism

View All Publications