KARACHI: The roller-coaster relationship between Pakistan and the United States touched a new low on Sunday when President Donald Trump fired off a fresh tirade at Pakistan, triggering an angry retort from Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet members.
The US mission in Afghanistan, now in its 17th year, has become the longest, deadliest and costliest in American military history. Despite losing thousands of men-in-uniform and billions of dollars, the Pentagon is not winning the war in Afghanistan, according to its own assessments.
Perturbed by their predicament in Afghanistan, US civil and military leaders continue to blame Pakistan for not doing enough to aid the American campaign against the Taliban. Prime Minister Khan said on Monday that the US president should do self-assessment instead of “making Pakistan a scapegoat for its failures”.
Khan was responding to President Trump, who said in a Fox News interview on Sunday that “they [Pakistan] don’t do a damn thing for us” even though Washington has given Islamabad billions of dollars in aid. Instead he accused Pakistan of sheltering Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda kingpin who was killed in a covert raid by US forces in the garrison city of Abbottabad in 2011.
The prime minister took to Twitter to “put the records straight”. He said the United States should do serious soul-searching to get to the reasons for its failures in Afghanistan despite the presence of tens of thousands of Nato and Afghan troops in the war-ravaged country.
“Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140,000 Nato troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops and reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before,” he wrote on the microblogging site.
According to a BBC study earlier this year, the Taliban, whom US-led forces spent billions of dollars trying to defeat, are now openly active in 70% of Afghanistan. It further shows that the Taliban now control or threaten much more territory than when foreign combat troops left in 2014.
Trump defended his administration’s decision of stopping financial aid to Pakistan. “We’re giving them [Pakistan] $1.3 billion a year – which we don’t give them anymore, by the way, I ended it because they don’t do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us,” he said.
Prime Minister Khan reminded Trump that Pakistan had joined the US-led war against terrorism even though no Pakistani was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. “Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war and over $123 billion was lost to the economy,” he said, adding that compared to Pakistan’s losses, the “US ‘aid’ was a miniscule $20 billion”.
In September, the Trump administration cancelled $300 million in military aid to Islamabad for allegedly not doing enough against terror groups like the Haqqani Network and the Taliban “active on its soil”.
The fact of the matter is Pakistan has rendered colossal sacrifices in the so-called war against terrorism. “Our tribal areas were devastated and millions of people uprooted from their homes,” he said while referring to Operation Zarb-e-Azb which was launched against the Taliban and their foreign cohorts in North Waziristan.
Tens of thousands of tribesmen had been uprooted from their homes as a result of this massive military offensive which was later extended to the entire country to hunt for sympathisers and financers of terrorists and to smash their sleeper cells in the urban centres.
“The war drastically impacted the lives of ordinary Pakistanis,” Premier Khan said. “Pakistan continues to provide free lines of ground and air communications (GLOCs/ALOCs) [for the US mission in Afghanistan], he added. “Can Mr Trump name another ally that gave such sacrifices?”
Hours before Khan’s rejoinder, Shireen Mazari, the minister for human rights in his cabinet, said that President Trump “suffers conveniently from perpetual historic amnesia”. She added that the policy of appeasement with the US would not work.
“Trump’s tirade against Pakistan… should be a lesson for those Pakistani leaders who kept appeasing the US, especially after 9/11! The renditions; the loss of Pakistani lives in the US war on terror; the free space for Raymond Davis and other operatives; the illegal killings by drone attacks; the list is endless,” she wrote on her official Twitter handle.
She said the US policies of containing China or isolating Iran do not coincide with Pakistan’s strategic interest. “Once again history shows appeasement does not work. Also, whether China or Iran, US policies of containment & isolation do not coincide with Pak strategic interests,” said further said.
Not just the government, opposition leaders also denounced President Trump’s rant. Khawaja Asif, who was the foreign minister in the previous PML-N government, called Pakistan’s relationship with the US one of “betrayals and sanctions”.
“We continue to pay in blood for what we did for the USA from Badhbher to fighting wars which weren’t ours. Reinvented our religion to suit US interests, destroyed our tolerant ethos, replaced it with bigotry and intolerance. A relationship of betrayals and sanctions,” he wrote on Twitter.
Pakistan’s airbase at Badhbher, on the edge of Peshawar, was used by the CIA and US air force for intelligence gathering operations and radio transmission intercepts relating to the then Soviet Union until 1970 when it was closed down.
Another senior opposition politician, Senator Mushahid Hussain, reminded President Trump that Pakistan opened its land routes and airspace for the United States for free to replenish its forces fighting the Taliban in Pakistan.
“Donald Trump conveniently forgets Pakistan gave US free use of Ground Lines of Communication (GLOCs) and Air Lines of Communication (ALOCs), totalling over a million over-flights on Pakistani territory since 9/11, in return, the US continues to withhold Pakistani money,” he wrote on the social networking site.
Mushahid also disputed Trump’s figures of US aid to Pakistan. “Donald Trump wrongly stated [in Fox News interview] ‘the US has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years’; $15 billion was reimbursement in Coalition Support Funds, of which $800 million still owed to Pakistan,” he said.
He also accused President Trump of ingratitude. “Apart from these false figures on US aid to Pakistan post 9/11, which actually is $18 billion compared to the $870 billion wasted on the Afghan war, Donald Trump also pointed an accusing finger against Pakistan: ‘They don’t do a damn thing for us’; height of ingratitude!”