ISLAMABAD – 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 hasn’t worked.
About 75 percent of Pakistanis surveyed regard the U.S. 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 America’s 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 isn’t a major priority, the poll found. Last year, 60 percent of Pakistanis surveyed said strengthening ties with the U.S. was important; this year only 45 percent said they feel that way.
The U.S. 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.