The Pakistani ambassador to the United States on Monday cautioned the United States against abandoning its longstanding partnership with Islamabad amid increasingly strained relations, warning a break in cooperation would harm efforts to secure peace in Afghanistan.
Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, who previously served as Pakistan’s foreign secretary, rejected U.S. criticism of the country’s efforts to combat terrorism and said his government would no longer accept being made a “scapegoat” for American failures in Afghanistan.
“If you don’t hear about al Qaeda today, the organization [that] was responsible for 9/11, it is because Pakistan and United States worked together day-in and day-out in the first decade after 9/11 to eliminate al Qaeda,” Chaudhry said at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
“There is no reason why the two countries should not continue in the same spirit to finish up what was started [in Afghanistan]… That’s the message that we are trying to convey, not to apportion blame by one against the other.”
Officials in Washington and Kabul have long held that Pakistan is playing a double game in Afghanistan given the country’s ties to the Taliban and its Haqqani network, which is responsible for several large-scale attacks on Afghan cities.
Tensions came to a head earlier this month when the Trump administration announced the suspension of up to $2 billion in U.S. security aid, days after President Donald Trump took to Twitter to accuse Pakistan of giving the United States “nothing but lies and deceit” and providing “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”
Trump’s tweet enraged officials in Islamabad. Pakistan’s army chief told U.S. General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, the country’s military “felt betrayed” by criticism that it’s not going far enough in efforts to combat terrorism.
The rift raises concerns for U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan, where American coalition troops rely on Pakistani air and ground routes to move personnel and supplies.
Chaudhry said Pakistan would continue efforts to stabilize Afghanistan regardless of the Trump administration’s next steps, stressing that Islamabad has suffered severely from the security vacuum formed in part by Kabul’s inability to effectively govern.
He said Pakistan has done its part to combat militancy on its borders, citing the thousands of troops that have died in counterterrorism operations over the past decade.
“Today, we can very proudly say that the tide of terrorism has been reversed, the militants and the terrorists are on the run, we are chasing them, and we will continue to do that, but is our job over? Certainly not,” he said.
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