NEW YORK:The United States failed to behave as an ally and turned Pakistan into a ‘whipping boy’ for its own shortcomings in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif said, after the Trump administration suspended aid to the country.
“We do not have any alliance with the United States,” the foreign minister said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Friday. “This is not how allies behave.”
The US said Thursday that security assistance to Islamabad was on hold until the Pakistani government took ‘decisive action’ against terror groups on its territory, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network.
The announcement followed a tweet from President Donald Trump earlier this week alleging that Pakistan gives ‘safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.’ Pakistan denied his claim and has long decried similar allegations.
Khwaja Asif said Pakistan’s recent counter-terrorism operations including those in the tribal areas that border Afghanistan has cleared the country of both the organized presence of militants and areas where they might seek sanctuary as peace returns.
But Taliban fighters still slip through and meld into its large Afghan refugee population, he said. There are 1.4 million such refugees currently living in Pakistan, according to the United Nations.
“We have relative calm in Pakistan at the moment. But if we go against these people [Afghan insurgents], then the war will again be fought on our soil, which will suit the Americans,” he told WSJ.
Asif added that a lack of cooperation from Washington and Kabul on both returning refugees to Afghanistan and fencing the border between the two countries “raises the suspicion that the intent [to fight terror together] is not sincere.”
There are other countries that could ally with Pakistan, Asif said. Last year, he rallied officials from China, Iran, Russia and Turkey behind Pakistan’s strategy for Afghanistan, a process centered on peace talks with the Taliban.
Following Trump’s tweet against Pakistan this week, Chinese foreign ministry said it was “ready to promote and deepen” its cooperation with Pakistan. “We are not alone,” Asif was quoted as saying.