US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, accompanied by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and newly appointed Advisor to the US Government on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad stopped at Islamabad on their way to New Delhi. The recent hubris demonstrated by US president Donald Trump and rhetoric emanating from the White House via his South Asia Strategic Review, the new-year 2018 Tweet in which he chastised Pakistan, the termination of International Military Education & Training (IMET) program for Pakistan, termination of aid as well as stoppage of Coalition Support Fund (CSF), gave the impression that Pak-US ties were rapidly disintegrating.History shows that Pak-US relations are like a roller coaster ride. Sometimes they’re up, other times they are down. In the 1950s, to contain Communist USSR, at the behest of the US, Pakistan joined SEATO and CENTO, permitted CIA to establish a base at Badaber to operate U2 reconnaissance flights over USSR till the 1962 Gary Powers incident. The 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak Wars exposed the one-sided nature of this relationship. Despite being a signatory to defence pacts with the US, Pakistan was denied support, and an arms embargo was imposed on both India and Pakistan, which did not affect the former since all its weapon systems were of Soviet origin. The latter suffered because it had put all its eggs in the US’s basket. The 1977 coup d’état by General Zia-ul-Haq brought further sanctions, but the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union changed the scenario. To defeat the USSR in Afghanistan, the US sought Pakistan’s support and we became a willing ally. As soon as the Soviets were defeated in 1989, sanctions were re-imposed on Pakistan with full ferocity. 1999’s coup d’état by General Musharraf invited the ire of the US State Department but 9/11 reversed this animosity. Pakistan became a major non-NATO ally but this courtship lasted only till 2007. After the US led troops started facing stiff resistance from a regrouped and battle-hardened Taliban, who had been routed in October 2001, the US turned on Pakistan, unfairly accusing it of clandestinely supporting the Taliban while being a US ally. In fact, the US was looking for a scapegoat for its own failures. 2011 dipped Pak-US ties to their nadir with the Raymond Davis affair, the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and the attack on the Pakistani military check-post at Salala. Islamabad retaliated by closing the Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC) for NATO forces’ logistic support to Afghanistan and shutting down US military bases in Pakistan. After nearly ten months of extreme acrimony — aggravated by CIA’s drone strikes in Pakistan’s western border areas — a thaw was visible. The Obama administration continued its accusations of doublespeak for Pakistan while it organised a drawdown of NATO forces from Afghanistan but started leaning more towards India.As a former CIA Director, perhaps Pompeo wanted to get the measure of Pakistan’s new leader Imran KhanThe rise of China, President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and President Trump’s trade wars with China have put Pakistan in the cross-hairs once again. Donald Trump — ever the master player – has taken a zero-sum stance vis-à-vis China. He expects US allies to also be exclusive in their relationship. Pakistan cannot afford to distance itself from its all-weather, strategic and loyal ally China but India, which perceives China as an economic opponent with which it has border issues, finds it opportune to support the US and denigrate both Beijing and Islamabad. The Indian propaganda machinery has launched a full-fledged assault against Pakistan, especially prior to Mike Pompeo’s tour of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Some detractors of Pakistan’s newly elected government also joined the deceitful chorus, aiming to create a dent in the civil military relationship. A minor discrepancy in the contents of a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan and Mike Pompeo was also blown out of proportion. Russian initiative of hosting an Afghan peace conference was also sabotaged because both the US and one of the main protagonists, Afghanistan regretted, constraining the hosts to postpone the event.In this backdrop, Mike Pompeo’s visit was full of optics. As a former CIA Director, perhaps Pompeo wanted to get the measure of Pakistan’s new leader Imran Khan. Bringing known venomous Pakistan-baiters and anti-Taliban spokespersons Zalmay Khalilzad and General Dunford was a deliberate pressure tactic. Ironically, the latter desired the propensity of military ties acting as a prop for taking the planned rapprochement forward, which is ominous in dismissing the value of civilian leadership. The redeeming aspect is the cognizance of resetting Pak-US ties and taking baby steps like the future meeting between our Foreign Minister and Mike Pompeo at the side-lines of UN General Assembly in New York, later this month, notwithstanding Pompeo’s demand of taking “sustained and decisive measures against terrorists and militants threatening regional peace and stability in the region.” The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF. He is a columnist, analyst and TV talk show host, who has authored six books on current affairs, including three on ChinaPublished in Daily Times, September 8th 2018.