–US president says ‘looking forward to meet new Pakistani leadership soon’, however accuses Islamabad of ‘housing the enemy’
–Questions Indian PM Modi’s dwelling on New Delhi funding a library in Afghanistan, says he doesn’t know who’s using it in Afghanistan
–Says Pakistan, Russia and India need to put in more effort for bringing stability to Afghanistan
WASHINGTON: A month after writing a letter to Pakistan seeking reconciliation of ties, US President Donald Trump on Thursday said he was looking forward to meeting with the new Pakistani leadership for want of a “great relationship”.
As per media reports, President Trump told his cabinet members that he would meet the new leadership of Pakistan “very soon”.
“Pakistan has not been fair to the United States. “We want to have a great relationship with Pakistan, but they house the enemy. They take care of the enemy. We just can’t do that,” Trump went on to say.
“So, I look forward to meeting with the new leadership in Pakistan. We will be doing that in the not too distant future. But I ended $1.3 billion that we paid. I think it was water, we were just paying to Pakistan. So, I ended that.”
Trump’s statement regarding meeting with Pakistan came a day after US Senator Lindsay Graham urged Trump to offer Pakistan a free trade agreement (FTA) in exchange for efforts to boost Afghanistan peace talks.
In an interview with CNN, he said if Pakistan helped the US in bringing the Taliban to the table, then the US would focus on counterterrorism and the Islamic State.
Pakistan-US relations after a year-long strain had gradually begun to thaw after President Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan soliciting Pakistan’s support for Afghan peace and the subsequent visit of US special envoy Khalilzad Zalmay to Pakistan.
Pakistan, eventually, made true on its promise and managed to bring Afghan Taliban to the table in first-ever direct talks held in Dubai.
Since then, the Trump Administration has acknowledged Islamabad’s help in pushing the Taliban to negotiations towards a peace process as Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy, has been visiting the region to end the 18-year-old conflict through Afghan peace process.
Islamabad has rejected the allegation that it gives refuge to Afghan Taliban. In response to Trump’s criticism, the new leader Khan also tweeted a message to remind the US of Pakistan’s sacrifices and contributions in the fight against terror since it allied with the US in the aftermath of 9/11 terror attacks.
DEFENDS SYRIA WITHDRAWAL DECISION:
In his remarks at the cabinet meeting, Trump defended his decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, making a case for America’s international partners stepping up to share the burden of involvement in faraway lands.
However, the US president did not specifically address the question of a widely reported move about a possible draw down of half of the 14,000 American troops currently deployed in landlocked Afghanistan, a sanctuary for al-Qaeda perpetrators of 9/11 terrorist attacks. In December 2018, the White House denied the president had made any decision on reducing US troops presence in Afghanistan.
Trump also criticised the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan as not being effective enough.
‘OTHER COUNTRIES ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR AFGHAN PEACE’:
In his remarks on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, Trump argued that other countries have a responsibility to be in the fight for the country, where the Taliban are said to be in control of half of the territory, and where the ISIS and the Taliban militancy threaten to roll back socioeconomic gains achieved since the US invasion of the country in late 2001.
He particularly mentioned India, Russia and Pakistan that should be doing more in the fight for Afghanistan’s stability.
He suggested that “the reason Russia was in Afghanistan (in the 1980s before the Soviet Union’s disintegration) was because terrorists were going into Russia.”
“They were right to be there,” he said in a statement, likely to draw criticism since Washington has always seen the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan as occupation of the country under thee Soviet policy of expansionism.
Trump said he has had a great relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi but questioned Modi’s dwelling on New Delhi’s funding a library in Afghanistan.
Modi has been “constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan,” Trump said.
“You know what that is? That’s like five hours of what we spend,” he said.
“And we’re supposed to say, ‘Oh, thank you for the library.’ I don’t know who’s using it in Afghanistan,” Trump wondered.
Analysts say Trump’s approach to winding down the Afghan conflict through peace process with the Taliban and his holding out the prospects of reviving relations with Pakistan signal his priority to reduce American military involvement in foreign conflicts, and that it is likely to be a major area of focus in 2019.