ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has reaffirmed its resolve to stay engaged with the United States to help fight terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan but it reminded America that ‘war on terror’ cannot be won excluding or confronting Islamabad.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Khawaja Asif stated this at the end of a three-day conference of Pakistani ambassadors to key world capitals for formulating a comprehensive response to the new U.S. policy on Afghanistan.
Trump dramatically increased the pressure on Pakistan during a key national address on August 21 in which he laid out a new strategy on the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan.
“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” Trump said.
“That will have to change and that will change immediately.”
Relations between Pakistan and the US have fluctuated widely over the decades with Washington frequently accusing Islamabad of fueling the Taliban insurgency and destabilising Afghanistan.
“We want to stay engaged with the United States. There is absolutely no doubt about it … But this relationship will be driven by the interest of Pakistan. We want to have a relationship based on mutual respect,” Asif told reporters after the meeting.
He again rejected allegations his country is sheltering terrorists. Asif recounted Pakistan has lost thousands of its citizens, including security forces, and suffered massive economic losses while fighting terrorism.
“I think people sitting in Washington have no comprehension of that … I think they are oblivious, if not completely, at least partially oblivious of what actually is happening in this region,” the foreign minister said.
Asif urged the U.S. to respect Pakistan’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorism and warned that “scapegoating” his country for “failures” of international forces to secure Afghanistan will be counterproductive.
“They [the U.S.] should acknowledge Pakistan’s counterterrorism gains and make use of our experience to win this war on terrorism because it can’t be won by excluding or confronting Pakistan,” the foreign minister asserted.
Trump singled out Pakistan for not doing enough against militant groups operating on its soil but did not outline how he planned to pressure the country to move against the alleged terrorist sanctuaries on its soil.
“You have to change an entire culture created to fight the Afghan jihad in the 80s. You needed a state of mind to wage the jihad, so you deliberately created that state of mind through a state-sponsored program. Now you are trying to reverse it,” Asif said. It takes time, he said, to “get rid of this baggage.”
The Pakistani minister was referring to the U.S.-backed Afghan insurgency against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.