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Pakistan army chief says nation felt ‘betrayed’ at US criticism

Military says US not contemplating unilateral action

Image Credit: AP
Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa
Gulf News

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief told a top US general the nation “felt betrayed” at criticism that it was not doing enough to fight terrorism, the military said on Friday, after US President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of “lies and deceit”.

US Central Command chief General Joseph Votel told General Qamar Javed Bajwa during a telephone call this week that the United States was not contemplating any unilateral action inside Pakistan, the Pakistani army said in a statement.

Tension between the United States and Pakistan has grown over US complaints that the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network that target American troops in Afghanistan are allowed to take shelter on Pakistani soil.

Trump’s administration last week announced the suspension of about $2 billion in security aid to nuclear-armed Pakistan — officially a US ally — over accusations Islamabad is playing a double game in Afghanistan.

Islamabad denies this and accuses the United States of disrespecting its vast sacrifices — casualties have numbered in the tens of thousands — in fighting terrorism.

The US aid suspension was announced days after Trump tweeted on January 1 that the United States had foolishly given Pakistan $33 billion in aid over 15 years and was rewarded with “nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools”.

It is not clear what prompted Trump’s tweet, which infuriated Pakistani officials and caught the rest of the US administration off guard.

The Pakistani statement on Friday did not directly refer to Trump’s tweet.

“[Bajwa] said that entire Pakistani nation felt betrayed over US recent statements despite decades of cooperation,” the army said, referring to the phone call between Bajwa and Votel.

The Pakistani assertion that Votel said no unilateral action inside Pakistan was being considered may have referred to the possibility of cross-border US drone strikes and other military missions targeting Taliban and other militant figures outside the border area.

In 2016, a US drone killed the then-leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, prompting protests from Islamabad of a violation of sovereignty.

And in 2011, a secret American raid in the military garrison city of Abbottabad killed Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks on American cities that prompted the US-led invasion to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Since Trump took office, there have been several drone strikes in Pakistan’s border region but they have not so far gone deeper into Pakistani territory, though Islamabad believes that is on a menu of punitive actions the US administration is considering.

However, the US military is also concerned that the Pakistani army, which effectively runs foreign policy, might close the air and land corridors on which US-led troops and Afghan forces in landlocked Afghanistan depend for supplies. So far, Pakistan has not done so.

The Pakistani military said both Votel and an unnamed US senator phoned Bajwa to discuss security cooperation “over the week”.

“The General said that US values Pakistan’s role towards war on terror and expected that on-going turbulence remains a temporary phase”, the statement said.

There was no immediate comment from US officials in Islamabad on the statement.

Trump has been less charitable towards Pakistan.

“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” he wrote in his New Year’s Day tweet, referring to Pakistan.

Officials said the administration had frozen payments from the “coalition support fund” set aside to reimburse Pakistani spending on counter-terror operations, worth $900 million.

Also in question is almost $1 billion of US military equipment that has allowed Pakistan access to advanced military technology.

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