Some marriages are made in heaven, some are forced by circumstances, but all marriages should be based on mutual trust and respect; and the parties should always try to overcome turbulence with patience in order to save a marriage. Can a marriage be saved at gun-point? There is no answer but it seems that US is giving it a try.

As the USA turned its guns on its ally in WOT, Pakistan kept a major conduit for Afghan war supplies closed. Initially, NATO refused to accept that they made a mistake as they insisted that it was their right to attack even Pakistan military post at will. Pakistan’s reaction was un-expected, unlike drone attacks on militants’ hideouts; attack on military post was seriously taken to be violation of the sanctity of international borders. Then the USA realized its blunder and started working to save the marriage by issuing public apologies for a Sept. 30 air strike that killed two Pakistani soldiers.

Businessweek has reported that Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the latest Obama administration figure to express regret for the helicopter attack. Mullen’s letter this week to the Pakistani Army chief of staff followed apologies from U.S. Ambassador Ann Patterson and the Afghanistan war commander, Army General David Petraeus. The U.S. will take the strike “very seriously and our most senior commanders in theater will review the investigation thoroughly with an eye toward avoiding recurrence of a tragedy like this,” Mullen said in the message, made public yesterday. The clash has heightened strains in the relationship with Pakistan, the most important U.S. ally in the Afghan war, as a White House report said Pakistan continues to dodge direct confrontation with insurgents threatening U.S. troops across the border.

This public apology notwithstanding, US lawmakers are demanding the administration push Pakistan to do more in the war against militants who may be plotting attacks in Europe and the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said yesterday he is more concerned that Pakistan isn’t pursuing militants within its borders more aggressively than with the flap over the border crossing. “The people who are there are killing our troops,” Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said in an interview yesterday. “You’ve got to continue to put maximum pressure on Pakistan.”

The White House report to Congress found that Pakistan’s military during the first eight months of 2010 continued to avoid direct conflict with Afghan Taliban fighters inside Pakistan or al-Qaeda forces in Northern Waziristan. “Gross” human rights violations continue, although there is evidence the military has made “initial efforts to stop these abuses,” the study said. The Obama administration, in addition to authorizing 30,000 more troops for Afghanistan in December, is seeking more Pakistani military operations to prevent the Taliban and al- Qaeda from crossing into eastern Afghanistan. The White House scheduled a Dec. 1 review to determine whether U.S. strategy is working.

“We’re not going to be able to rely on them if they don’t take stronger actions,” Levin said of Pakistan. “It makes it much more difficult to move in the direction we want to move with them.” Ashley Tellis, a senior associate in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said Levin is right to push for greater contributions from Pakistan, although such pressure may not succeed.

While “the U.S. has considerable leverage with Pakistan,” Tellis said in an interview, it is afraid that pressuring Pakistan will lead the South Asian nation “to do something reckless in terms of terrorism or nuclear activity, and those fears circumscribe our ability to do anything.”

Pakistan, like its neighbor India, is armed with nuclear weapons. Teresita Schaffer, a former assistant secretary for South Asia at the State Department, said in an interview that the administration is taking the best approach to the air strike and the closed crossing, given longer-term U.S. goals. The U.S. believes “that it can’t end up with an acceptable situation in Afghanistan unless Pakistan is a cooperating partner,” said Schaffer, who heads the South Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington policy group. “And something like 80 to 90 percent of the supplies for the troops go through Pakistan,” Schaffer added.

“For that reason the administration is trying to work toward a position where Pakistan will be seen to be opening the crossing of its own accord, rather than being bludgeoned into it,” Schaffer said.

These are mixed signals. On one hand, US is trying to save the marriage as it needs Pakistan before it seeks an honorable exit from Afghanistan, but it continues to try to bully Pakistan through its legislative arm and think-tanks using the techniques which can at best be called black-mail. It is like saving a marriage at gunpoint.