February 22, 2018

Pakistan bemoans USA 'trust deficit' over Afghan conflict

27 October 2017, 12:30 | Rufus Hill

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif

Pakistans Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif

Dawn, a prominent Pakistani newspaper, in its editorial published on Thursday said, "What is hard to gauge is how far the USA is willing to go on both sides of the cooperate-or-else message: how much pressure is the United States willing to exert on Pakistan and what kind of beneficial cooperation is the U.S. willing to offer Pakistan?"

The foreign minister also told the Senate that Pakistan authorities no longer have an influence on the Taliban, which was conveyed to Tillerson's team in a "frank" manner.

Khawaja Asif said that Taliban and ISIS control nearly 45 percent area of Afghanistan where they have shadow governors, which is enough for them to plan and execute terrorist activities there and that they do not need Pakistani territory of it.

During a session of the parliament's upper house, Asif told senators that the the Afghan-based Haqqani network is on the top of the (US) list, which has carried out a number of kidnappings and attacks against U.S. interests in Afghanistan but none of the terrorists belong to Pakistan. However, he said, Pakistan has managed to restore peace in its territory to a great extent and the number of drone strikes has decreased as compared to previous years.

Asif said a decrease in the frequency of drone attacks inside Pakistan was a clear manifestation of the fact that Pakistan had cleared its areas from the people who used to become reason for violation of country's airspace and sovereignty. "Nearly 40% of Afghan territory is now under the direct control of the Taliban".

"We've made clear to the Taliban: You will never achieve a military victory", Tillerson told a news conference Thursday. He said we were still in war and it would continue till complete elimination of terrorists.

He said Pakistan and Afghanistan had also exchanged lists of wanted terrorists.

Tillerson made his inaugural visit to Pakistan after Trump accused the country of providing "safe havens" to the terrorists.

Khwaja Asif said that Pakistan should not be blamed for the failures in Afghanistan. We have a huge trust deficit.

"Having said that there is a willingness on both sides to bridge this [trust] deficit". His reception was more muted in Pakistan, which is under increasing pressure to crack down on extremist groups and eliminate their safe havens. "But we are talking".

Asif blamed the "ineptitude" of United States and worldwide forces in Afghanistan for not ending the conflict.

He also dismissed the possibility of economic sanctions by the case it does not tackle the issue of Taliban, saying that Pakistan only received "a trickle" of economic assistance from America. "We have given them [Afghanistan] a list of about 100 individuals while their list contains 70-75 names", he remarked.

Pakistan is seeking "transparent" relations on "equal terms" with the United States and is ready to offer its "full cooperation" in fighting terrorism, but "without compromising its sovereignty" and scapegoating Islamabad would not be acceptable, the minister said.

US officials have long accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye or assisting the Afghan Taliban and the allied Haqqani network.

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