Army Chief Says Pakistan 'Felt Betrayed' By U.S. Criticism, Aid Cuts
RFE/RL January 13, 2018
Pakistan's army chief has told a top U.S. general that his nation feels "betrayed" by U.S. criticism that it is not doing enough to fight terrorism, which has prompted Washington to suspend military aid for Islamabad.
The Pakistani military in a statement on January 12 said that General Qamar Javed Bajwa told U.S. Central Command chief General Joseph Votel in a phone conversaton this week that the "entire Pakistani nation felt betrayed over U.S. recent statements despite decades of cooperation."
Bajwa told Votel that Pakistan will not seek to restore U.S. military aid, but it does "expect honorable recognition of our contributions, sacrifices and unwavering resolve in the fight against terrorism," the statement said.
U.S. President Donald Trump on January 1 accused Pakistan of "lies and deceit" and said the United States would suspend around $2 billion a year in military aid until Islamabad moves decisively against Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network militants who he said have found safe haven within Pakistan's borders.
During their conversation, Votel sought to reassure Bajwa, Pakistan's army statement said, saying the United States is not contemplating any "unilateral action inside Pakistan" to go after the militants.
"The general said that U.S. values Pakistan's role [in the] war on terror and expects that on-going turbulence [will be] a temporary phase," the statement said.
Bajwa told Votel that despite being made a "scapegoat" by the United States because it has failed to win its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Pakistan will continue its antiterrorism efforts as well as support for peace efforts in Afghanistan, the statement said.
U.S. Central Command did not comment on the conversation, but said the U.S. military is in "continuous communication" with Pakistan's military.
Tensions between the United States and Pakistan have soared over the U.S. accusations and withdrawal of aid, which infuriated Pakistan's leaders and prompted street protests.
Islamabad says the United States does not respect or appreciate the sacrifices Pakistan has made in its decade-long fight against terrorism, which it says has cost tens of billions of dollars and claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers and civilians.
The U.S. 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."
"They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!" Trump said.
Since Trump's move, the Pentagon has sought to smooth relations with the Pakistani military.
"We value mutual understanding of interests and concerns that we need to consider and might lead to a positive path forward," U.S. Central Command spokesman Air Force Colonel John Thomas said on January 12.
Votel's reported assurances that the United States will take no unilateral action inside Pakistan comes after years of tensions over U.S. drone strikes targeting militants residing in the country.
In 2016, a U.S. drone strike killed the leader of the Taliban at the time, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, in the southwestern province of Balochistan, prompting protests from Islamabad that the strike violated its sovereignty.
In 2011, a secret American raid in the military garrison city of Abbottabad killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks on Washington and New York that prompted the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and the 16-year war to defeat the Taliban there.
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.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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