Defense, Intelligence Coop With US Suspended: Khurram Dastgir

Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan disclosed Tuesday that the country has suspended defense and intelligence cooperation with the United States amid growing tensions over U.S. suspension of military aid to Pakistan.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is denying Pakistan’s claims it has suspended military or intelligence cooperation with the United States, according to VOA.

Embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire told VOA: “We have not received any formal communication regarding a suspension.”

U.S. officials have said in a series of recent statements that almost all security assistance to Pakistan has been suspended following President Donald Trump’s Tweet on Jan. 1, in which he had alleged that Pakistan “gives safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help.”

He had also wrote, “United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.”

Pakistani leaders had earlier shown restraint despite allegations by the American leaders and aid suspension but the defense minister’s statement could be seen as an indication of growing tension.

“You see the facilities that we have extended to them (Americans) are still in operation. We have not suspended them. But there is also a wide field of intelligence cooperation and defense cooperation which we have suspended,” Dastgir said at a Public Talk on “Contours of Security Environment of Pakistan”, organized by the government-run Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) under its Distinguished Lecture Series. But he added, the supply lines for NATO troops in Afghanistan, formally known as the Ground Lines of Communication or the Air Lines of Communication were still open.

In Washington, State Department’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein told VOA Tuesday the United States is “hopeful that Pakistan will come back to the table” and assist in U.S. efforts to combat terrorism.

Referring to the U.S. suspension of Pakistan’s aid, Dastgir said, “the recent suspension of military aid by the U.S. comes in the wake of a more grave suspension, which is suspension of the strategic dialogue for more than a year between the U.S. and Pakistan.”

He also complained that the United States has not extended help to fence the border with Afghanistan in the rugged mountains to stop the cross-border movement of the militants.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have nearly 2500 kilometers border, mostly porous, and the militants take advantage of the open border to move on both sides for violence.

Pakistan last year started fencing the border and most of the fencing will be completed this year, according to military officials.

“It is convenient to blame Pakistan for cross-border terrorism, where the U.S. has not lifted a finger to help fence-up the (Pak-Afghan) border,” Dastgir said.

“Now all veils are off…It is time for a courteous yet ruthlessly candid dialogue between Pakistan and the United States,” he went on to say.

The U.S. leaders have been pressing Pakistan to take action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network but Dastgir said “Pakistan remains adamant that the Afghan war will not be fought on Pakistani soil.”

Monday, a Pentagon spokesman said the United States had conveyed to Pakistan “concrete steps” to take before the United States would resume hundreds of millions of dollars in aid (almost $2 billion according to one report), which was suspended.

Pakistan says the United States is scapegoating it for U.S. failures in Afghanistan.

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