Spotlight: Pakistan, U.S. at crossroad following Trump’s fresh accusations

by Kaswar Klasra, Muhammad Tahir

ISLAMABAD, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) — The gulf is widening between Pakistan and the United States, two longtime allies in anti-terrorism, after U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent accusations of deception and providing a safe haven for terrorists against Pakistan.

In his first Tweet of the year on Monday, Trump accused Pakistan for lying to the United States and offering “little help” in hunting terrorists in Afghanistan. Furious Trump even threatened to cut aid to Pakistan.

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion USD in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump said, adding that “they give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

The accusations prompted Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to call a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) on the issue. The committee expressed “deep disappointment” over the U.S. president’s comments.

The committee made it loud and clear that Pakistan was firmly supporting the U.S.-led international anti-terrorism effort in Afghanistan and, as a result of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism cooperation, Al-Qaida had been decimated from the region.

Officials here insist that Pakistan lost around 70,000 people in the war on terror since 2001 and the country suffered over 120 billion U.S. dollars during the period.

The statement further said that it was mostly because of this endeavor, Pakistan was suffering a brutal backlash, including the killing of hundreds of its schoolchildren by terrorists based in Afghanistan, adding that Pakistan cannot be held responsible for the collective failure in Afghanistan.

“The real challenges in Afghanistan were political infighting, massive corruption, phenomenal growth of drug production and expansion of ungoverned spaces inside Afghanistan full of sanctuaries for multiple international terrorist organizations, posing a serious and direct threat to Afghanistan, its neighbors including Pakistan and the entire region,” stated Pakistani Foreign office.

Aamir Ghautri, a veteran editor of Pakistan’s influential daily The News told Xinhua that Trump’s remarks about Pakistan showed his complete disregard of ground facts.

“On the face of it, President Trump’s remarks about Pakistan show his complete disregard of ground facts and his rowdy insistence to push his foreign policy preferences through Twitter rather than the State Department on the other,” Ghauri said.

“But when studied closely, the POTUS comes across as a bully who invokes threats as instruments of foreign policy against friends and foes alike thinking such barbs would work. They won’t,” he added.

Maria Sultan, director general of the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, told Xinhua that Pakistan has been a U.S. front line partner in this war against terrorism. This is an unfortunate set of accusations. Pakistan will not be coerced into believing Washington’s narrative on the region’s security challenges or the economic future.

Mosharraf Zaidi, former advisor to the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in local reports that Pakistan’s land route is still important for the U.S. operations in Afghanistan as it has opted for troops surge. “The U.S. still use Pakistan’s air corridor. The U.S. still needs these facilities and Pakistan can stop it.”

Thousands of U.S. and its coalition forces in Afghanistan depend mostly on ground and air routes through Pakistan for supplies of ammunition and goods. As Washington is currently at odds with both Russia and Iran, it has left the Trump administration with almost no options but to rely on Pakistani supply routes to sustain the Afghan military mission.

Just three days after Trump’s Tweet, the White House has confirmed suspending 255 million U.S. dollars of military aid to Pakistan, according to local reports on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s former ambassador Ayaz Wazir to Afghanistan said the use of language by Trump is not expected of a person in that high position and also of an independent and sovereign state.

“It’s very unfortunate that the president of the world’s most powerful nation is setting wrong principles in international relations. It will not set things right but prove counterproductive,” Wazir told Xinhua recently.

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