ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a resolution yesterday condemning US President Donald Trump’s accusations that Islamabad was prolonging the war in Afghanistan, denouncing them as “hostile” and “threatening”. Speaking before the assembly, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif Asif urged the government to consider postponing any visits by US delegations to Pakistan or by Pakistani officials to the United States and closing off “ground and air lines of communication through Pakistan”.
On Sunday, Pakistan’s foreign office announced that it had postponed a visit by a US acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells to discuss Washington’s new Afghan policy, but at the time did not provide a reason.
Trump accused Pakistan of harboring “agents of chaos” and providing safe havens to militant groups waging an insurgency against the US-backed government in Kabul.
Pakistani officials bristle at what they say is a lack of respect from Washington for the country’s sacrifices in the war against militancy and its successes against groups like al Qaeda, Islamic State or the Pakistani Taleban. Pakistan estimates there have been 70,000 Pakistani casualties in militant attacks since it joined the US war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Successive US administrations have struggled with how to deal with nuclear-armed Pakistan. Washington fumes about inaction against the Taleban, but Pakistan has been helpful on other counterterrorism efforts, including against Al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
The United States also has no choice but to use Pakistani roads to resupply its troops in landlocked Afghanistan. US officials worry that if Pakistan becomes an active foe, it could further destabilise Afghanistan and endanger US soldiers.
“Afghanistan, the US and its allies should close their borders to leaders of terrorist, militant groups carrying out acts of terrorism against Pakistan,” Asif told the assembly.
He added that Pakistan was concerned about Islamic State flourishing in Afghan provinces bordering Pakistan. Pakistani officials and media have also raged about Trump’s calls for India’s increased involvement in Afghanistan.
Asif termed an increased role for New Delhi in Kabul “highly detrimental to regional stability” and accused India of supporting terrorism and “destabilizing politics in the region”. In response to warnings that Washington might cut aid to Pakistan, Asif rejected the importance of American dollars, saying that Pakistan has lost more than $123 billion to terrorism since the Sept 11 attacks.
Any effort to isolate Pakistan would face problems from China, which has deepened political and military ties with Islamabad and invested nearly $60 billion in infrastructure in Pakistan. The relationship between Islamabad and Washington has endured periods of extreme strain during the past decade, especially after Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was found and killed by US special forces in Pakistan in a 2011 raid. – Reuters