Biden is expected to meet with Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan's powerful Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to discuss counterterrorism and Pakistan's deepening economic crisis, according to Pakistani officials.
The goal of the vice president's discussions will be to get Pakistan more directly involved in an aggressive anti-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan. Experts say the Obama administration must make it clear that it will not tolerate Pakistani military and intelligence agencies that aid the Taliban or harbor terrorists.
"U.S. policymakers are so worried about the possibility of an increasingly unstable and hostile nuclear-armed Pakistan that they have not pushed the envelope with Islamabad on the Taliban, even though such a push would likely change the course of the war in the U.S. and coalition forces' favor," said Lisa Curtis, an expert on Pakistan with the Heritage Foundation, a think tank in Washington.
Despite a push from some Pentagon and intelligence officials that aid to Pakistan be tied to changing conditions there, the Obama administration decided to go forward with last year's package in hopes of gaining cooperation from the government in Islamabad. The administration also rejected entreaties by U.S. commanders that American troops be allowed to enter Pakistan's tribal belt to kill and capture insurgents without having those missions cleared by the Pakistan government, according to reports.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, Pakistan has received more than $15 billion in aid to combat terrorism in the region. Last year, the administration also announced more than $500 million in aid for Pakistan in an effort to build closer ties with the Pakistani people.
The Af-Pak strategy released by the White House in December revealed that there is still widespread distrust and hatred of America among Pakistanis.
And the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate concludes that Pakistan is unlikely to change its policies toward the Taliban because of its concerns over Indian influence in the region.
The Obama administration continues to provide significant amounts of military aid to Pakistan with an expectation that the military will eventually toughen its policies toward the Taliban, but the current policy fails to address the fact that Pakistan still views the Taliban as an asset, some analysts say. "There is no Plan B for dealing with a recalcitrant Pakistan that is working against U.S. interests," Curtis said.
Pakistani officials complain that U.S. aid, which is expected to total more than $3 billion in 2011, doesn't arrive in time, while top Pakistani commanders complain that key equipment promised by the U.S., such as helicopters, doesn't show up.
U.S. policy regarding aid to Pakistan is heavily influenced by the specter of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. A military official, who spoke to The Washington Examiner on condition of anonymity, said Pakistani nukes are the primary reason the U.S. "allows Pakistan get away with everything it does without any repercussions."
In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Congress that Pakistan had dispersed its nuclear weapons throughout the country, increasing the possibility that the weapons could be stolen by terrorists or by Pakistani government extremists sympathetic to Islamic insurgencies. New satellite imagery last year revealed evidence that Pakistan was increasing its capacity to produce plutonium, used for atomic weapons.
Pakistan's continuous quest to build up its nuclear arsenal is a reaction to an intense fear and hatred of India, a paranoia that exists on both sides of the border, analysts say. Improving relations between India and Pakistan -- a monumental diplomatic task -- may be the only way to gain Pakistan's sincere help with Afghanistan, analysts say.
"The U.S. could offer Pakistan more concrete security guarantees with regard to its concerns over India," Curtis said. "However, that would only be possible if Pakistan is willing to accept India's emergence both in the region and globally and the growing partnership between Washington and New Delhi. If Pakistan is unprepared to accept India's rise, it is difficult to see how the U.S. could provide any meaningful security guarantees to Pakistan."
Sara A. Carter is The Washington Examiner's national security correspondent. She can be reached at email@example.com.