Trump ‘wants to work with Islamabad’ on ‘AfInPak’ region

Irshad Salim — US State Department’s Spokesperson for South Asian Media Helaena White has said that Donald Trump’s criticism of Pakistan while announcing his much anticipated Afghan policy announcement is part of “integrated regional approach” the Whitehouse has adopted for the South Asian region, focusing mainly on Afghanistan, India and Pakistan- “AfInPak”~ Afghanistan, India, Pakistan.

Speaking to Pakistani news channel Geo News at the US embassy in capital Islamabad about Trump’s harsh comments about “anti-terror ally” Pakistan, Helaena White defended Trump’s new strategy about Pakistan and said that his approach was “reflective of conditions on the ground rather than based on a timeline,” report Internews.

She said that Pakistan and America have enjoyed “durable and strong” relations for 70 years. The USA “was with the people of Pakistan as we have relations of 70 years,” she said. “American people know that terrorists are a global problem and almost every country is affected by it and no single country can deal with this problem on its own, we all have to work together.”

She said it was wrong to suggest that Donald Trump had blamed Pakistan for the Afghanistan situation.

She said: “We are not blaming Pakistan. We acknowledge the sacrifices made by Pakistan in the War on Terror. We have high appreciation for Pakistan’s role.

We know it very well that the people of Pakistan are victims of terrorism like the people of America.”

She said that Donald Trump’s administration wants to work with Pakistan “together for the peace and security of Afghanistan which will benefit the entire region.”

She said that Trump’s new approach revolved around “protecting American interests” in the region and globally and the US president was being honest and open about it.

Meanwhile, talks between Pakistan and the US on Trump’s new American strategy for South Asia got another setback on Sunday when Washington learned from Islamabad that Pakistan would like to reschedule talks with a senior US official that were to begin on Monday.

“The visit of acting Assistant Secretary [Alice] Wells has been postponed on Pakistan’s request. It will be rescheduled at a mutually convenient time,” a senior State Department official told reporters in Washington on Sunday. Wells will  visit Dhaka and Colombo as planned.

The rescheduling of Ms Wells’ visit to Pakistan was the second such request from Islamabad in less than a week. Pakistan had earlier requested rescheduling of visit to Washington of its Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, who was expected in the US capital on Aug 25 on an invitation from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Apparently a third visit, that of a delegation led by senior White House National Security Council official Lisa Curtis, will also be rescheduled. Ms Curtis, who played a key role in formulating the new US strategy for South Asia, was expected to arrive in Islamabad this week, report Dawn.

The proposed talks on three levels — cabinet, foreign affairs and security — were aimed to explore how the United States and Pakistan could rebuild their relations under the guidelines set by President Donald Trump in his Aug 21 speech.

When asked about the unfortunate comments by Donald Trump that terrorist sanctuaries existed on Pakistani side of the border and that the Pakistani authorities didn’t take action against some terrorist groups, Helaena White said that “sanctuaries exist on both sides of the border. We want Pakistan to take decisive action against militant groups based in Pakistan that are a threat to the region”.

When told that Donald Trump’s comments have attracted massive criticism across the board in Pakistan, State Department’s spokesperson for South Asian said that U.S. “was with the people of Pakistan as we have relations of 70 years. American people know that terrorists are a global problem and almost every country is affected by it and no single country can deal with this problem on its own, we all have to work together.

“In our opinion, situation in the whole region is affected by situation in Afghanistan.

If we can secure peace in Afghanistan, it will mean stable and prosperous Pakistan.”

She said that Donald Trump’s government encourages India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through talks to reduce their tensions.

When told that Trump’s biased pro-India stance has caused tensions in the whole region and many countries like China and Russia have seen this with scepticism, Helaena White said that the US administration seeks diplomatic consensus for all countries in the region to work together towards core counterterrorism goals.

She said there was no ambiguity that America wants to protect its global interests but believed that there are commons goals for which all countries can work together.

She acknowledged that Trump’s decision to stay in Afghanistan for an “indefinite” time was unexpected, she said that America has fought war in Afghanistan for 17 years and “this wasn’t a war of our choosing, we had no choice, we want that there should be no war in Afghanistan at all. It’s our new strategy and there is no deadline involved. It all depends on the conditions for lasting security” in the AfInPak region.

According to some observers, the good news is Trump policy seeks resolution of “all disputes” (including Kashmir as sought by Pakistan) in the region, but the bad news is that India has been brought on board –much to the chagrin of Islamabad, to play a “direct role” in Afghan peace and by extension peace in the region including Indian-administered Kashmir  where Delhi calls the movement for self-determination (supported by Pakistan) “terrorism”.

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