–Pentagon and senior US officials reaffirm ‘critical relations‘ with Pakistan as Islamabad lodges formal protest over Trump’s remarks
–Foreign Minister Qureshi says Pakistan not responsible for US foreign policy failure in Afghanistan
–Diplomatic channels in both countries say want to have meaningful working relation
ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON: After the fresh face-off between US President Donald Trump and PM Imran Khan, diplomatic channels in both countries have ramped up attempts to control the damage with Pentagon and US government’s senior officials admitting their crucial ties with Islamabad at the military and strategic level in South Asia. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua both have conveyed reminders to the Trump Administration of Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror albeit with calls for maintaining working relations for peace in the region.
The latest developments came after Trump sought to justify his administration’s decision at the start of 2018 to pull military aid to Pakistan by linking it to al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden being found in Pakistan in 2011.
“They [Pakistan] don’t do a damn thing for us,” the US president had said. PM Khan immediately rejected Trump’s remarks against Pakistan, suggesting that Washington should assess its success in Afghanistan instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for its failures.
Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, on Tuesday issued a series of statements, reaffirming diplomatic relations with Pakistan and said it remains a critical partner in America’s strategy in South Asia.
However, US Director of Defense Press Operations Colonel Robert Manning, speaking to reporters during an off-camera news conference, said that Pakistan still holds strategic importance for the US when it comes to its presence in South Asia.
“The US and Pakistan have strong mutual interests in the region. As you know, they are critical (and) vital to the South Asia strategy and including the facilitation of a peace process that would lead to a stable and peaceful Afghanistan,” Colonel Manning said.
When asked a question pertaining to Trump’s tweets in response to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s rejection of his earlier statement, he said: “They [Pakistan] remain a critical partner in our South Asia strategy and there’s been no change to our military-to-military relationship with Pakistan.”
When told that his statements differed from the perspective that the American president seems to have, Manning said that he does not have any announcement on any changes in military relationship with Pakistan.
It is pertinent to mention that contrary to Trump’s insinuations, former US president Barack Obama had said last year: “We had no evidence that Pakistan was aware of his presence — that is something that we looked at.”
ISLAMABAD STILL IMPORTANT:
Senior US officials also communicated with Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday to reassure that they will continue the two-way cooperation at the diplomatic level despite Trump’s accusations, according to diplomatic sources.
Washington said it aims to continue talks will Islamabad regarding the decisions made during US State Secretary Mike Pompeo’s visit, diplomatic sources said, adding that the United States appreciated Pakistan’s cooperation but expressed the need to increase the bilateral engagement.
The diplomatic sources further said that the US officials praised Pakistan’s sacrifices in war on terror. Washington promised to make President Donald Trump aware of these sacrifices, they added.
PAKISTAN LODGES FORMAL PROTEST:
In reaction to the “unwarranted and unsubstantiated allegations” made against Pakistan by the US President Trump, Pakistan lodged a formal protest with the US in which its Chargé d’Affaires Paul Jones was summoned to the Foreign Office (FO) on Tuesday.
n a letter, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua conveyed Pakistan’s disappointment over recent comments by the US president, stating that “such baseless rhetoric about Pakistan is totally unacceptable”.
Referring to Trump’s accusation that Pakistan had actively sheltered the al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, the foreign secretary reminded the US diplomat that it was Pakistan’s intelligence agencies that had provided the initial evidence to trace the whereabouts of Bin Laden.
“No other country has paid a heavier price than Pakistan in the fight against terrorism,” the letter added.
“The US leadership had acknowledged on multiple occasions that Pakistan’s cooperation had helped in decimating the core Al-Qaeda leadership and eradicating the threat of terrorism from the region.”
“The US must not forget that scores of top al Qaeda leaders were killed or captured by active Pakistani cooperation. Pakistan’s continued support to the efforts of the international community in Afghanistan through ground, air and sea lines of communication was unquestionably critical to the success of this mission in Afghanistan.”
The foreign secretary added that in the wake of recent US pronouncements to seek a political settlement in Afghanistan, Pakistan and US were working in close coordination with other regional stakeholders in order to end the prolonged conflict.
“At this critical juncture, baseless allegations about a closed chapter of history could seriously undermine this vital cooperation,” the protest statement added.
PAK NOT LIABLE FOR AMERICA’S FAILURE IN AFGHANISTAN:
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi reiterated that Pakistan cannot be held responsible for America’s failure in Afghanistan as Islamabad has been striving for a positive role in the Afghan reconciliation process.
Commenting on Trump’s tweets, the foreign minister told a private television channel that international community, including the US, have acknowledged Pakistan’s role in the war against terrorism.
Qureshi said US would have faced more losses in Afghanistan, had Pakistan not provided its support at the cost of huge losses.
He said Pakistan wants good diplomatic ties with the US but it is also necessary to keep the record straight.
FM Qureshi added that Pakistan would formulate its foreign policy keeping in view its interest.
To a question, he replied that Pakistan desired a positive engagement with India but Delhi government backtracked even after agreeing for engagement.
Pakistan has paid with blood in the war on terror. We lost 75000 people and our economy lost an estimated $123 billion. The United States is safer today because of our contributions and its a shame to hear statements that don’t take those facts into account.
— Shah Mahmood Qureshi (@SMQureshiPTI) November 19, 2018
On Monday, the foreign minister had tweeted a response to Trump’s statement: “Pakistan has paid with blood in the war on terror. We lost 75,000 people and our economy lost an estimated $123 billion. The United States is safer today because of our contributions and it is a shame to hear statements that don’t take those facts into account.”
Responding to Trump’s statements, Prime Minister Khan said that Islamabad had decided to “participate in the US War on Terror” although no Pakistani was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
“Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war and over $123 billion was lost,” he added, of which “US ‘aid’ was a minuscule $20bn”, the premier had said.
Khan had said that instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140,000 NATO troops, plus 250,000 Afghan troops and reportedly $1 trillion spent on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before.