“Islamabad Critical Partner to So. Asia Strategy”, Says Pentagon After Trump-Khan Twitter Spat

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NEW YORK/ISLAMABAD (Nov 20, 2018): The Pentagon says Islamabad is a critical partner to its South Asian strategy a day after President Trump sparked off a Twitter spat with Prime Minister Imran Khan when he reiterated the allegations he had levelled against Pakistan in a Fox News interview on Sunday.

The US president had repeated his New Year Day accusation that Pakistan is “doing nothing” for the US despite receiving “billions of dollars” in aid. His comments drew quick and strong response from PM Khan on the microblogging site and from the Army Chief Gen. Bajwa.

“Pakistan has done much more for peace in Afghanistan than any other country,” he was quoted by DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor as saying in a tweet.

“We have paid the highest military, economic, political and social cost and the world should acknowledge that. We shall continue to contribute towards peace in Afghanistan but Pakistan’s honor and Pakistan’s security shall always stay premier,” he added.

Director of Defense Press Operations for the US Department of Defense Colonel Rob Manning III in an apparent attempt to do damage control, on Monday commented during an off-camera news conference that, “The US and Pakistan have strong mutual interests in the region.”

“As you know, they [Pakistan] are critical [and] vital to the South Asia strategy, including the facilitation of a peace process that would lead to a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.”

Related Article: Top US Commander in Afghanistan Reveals Pessimism: ‘‘This is not going to be won militarily’

Manning also clarified that there was no change in the military-to-military relationship between Pakistan and the United States.

When asked whether the Pentagon differed with Trump’s views, the official said he did not have “any announcement on any change to the military-to-military relationship” with Pakistan.

What led Trump to double down on Pakistan

Commenting on Trump’s tirade, Washington-based South Asia analyst Michael Kugelman tweeted, “Lest we forget: Trump’s latest tirade about #Pakistan came as part of his attempt to impugn Admiral McRaven, who has been critical of Trump. So Trump’s tirade isn’t a policy statement per se. It’s more a case of Pakistan innocently getting caught up in US domestic politics.”

Related Article: Jawab-e-Shikwa: Trump’s Pakistan Shikwa

On Sunday, Trump’s comments on Pakistan as he appeared to deflect a question about criticism from retired Admiral William McRaven, who served as commander of the United States Special Operations Command from 2011 until 2014. The president wrote off the comments from the veteran who served in the military for 37 years, calling him “a Hillary Clinton-backer and an Obama-backer.” He then suggested that the commander, who oversaw the 2011 operation that took out Bin Laden, should have gotten the extremist leader much sooner.

Many have slammed the president’s criticism of the respected admiral, including fellow retired military leaders.

“This comment by the president was disrespectful, it was demoralizing, it was shallow, and it was unprofessional,” Major General Mark Hertling, a retired three-star general who served with McRaven, defended his former colleague to CNN.

McRaven himself hit back at the president’s attack, pointing out that he never backed Clinton and proudly served under Republican and Democratic presidents.

“I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else,” McRaven told CNN.

“I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for. I admire all presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times,” he added. “I stand by my comment that the president’s attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime.”

The United States has been upset over its military failure in Afghanistan where it has failed to defeat the Taliban despite squandering one trillion dollars. It’s now trying to find a political to end the 17-year-long unwinnable war– a position PM Khan had taken years back but was dubbed ‘Taliban Khan’.  Last month, he said, ‘Pakistan will only ally with the US for peace, not war’.

The newly-elected Pakistani premier reminded President Trump via tweet that the U.S.-led “war on terror” has caused more than 75,000 casualties and more than $120 billion in losses to Pakistan.

He said he wanted to put the record straight in regards to his country’s relationship with Washington following Trump’s “tirade.”

“Record needs to be put straight on Mr Trump’s tirade against Pakistan: 1. No Pakistani was involved in 9/11 but Pak decided to participate in US War on Terror. 2. Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war & over $123 bn was lost to economy. US “aid” was a miniscule $20 bn,” PM Khan responded via the microblogging site.

He also said, “Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops & reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before.”

“Now we will do what is best for our people & our interests”, PM Khan tweeted in one of his responses to Trump’s tweets.

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