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Why engage with Pakistan?

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To be sure, the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers have inflamed public opinion against the US, in a year when a CIA contractor killed two civilians on the streets of Lahore and America conducted a unilateral raid to kill Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil. Polls put Pakistanis with a favorable opinion of the US at around 12 percent of the population, and there's little love lost on the other side.

Making matters worse, public distrust has reached such levels that right now overt moves toward reconciliation aren't possible for either side.

"Neither the United States nor Pakistan can be seen to their public as giving space where it's not deserved," says Mosharraf Zaidi, a political analyst.

In Pakistan, anger has manifested in a cut to the NATO supply line, street protests, and the yanking of foreign news channels off the air.

Such fury has been compounded by President Obama's refusal to make a videotaped apology for the airstrike incident, having already expressed regret through the White House press secretary.

On Dec. 1, the US hit back with its own version of events, as officials told The Wall Street Journal that Pakistan had given the green light on the attack, unaware that their own troops were in the area.

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