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Pakistan remains critical partner to US South Asian strategy: Pentagon

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WASHINGTON: The Pentagon on Monday said that Pakistan remains a critical partner to the United States’ South Asia strategy, a day after US President Donald Trump alleged that Pakistan does “not do a damn thing” for the US.

In an interview to a local news channel on Sunday, Trump had defended his administration’s decision to block hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan, alleging that the country was not doing enough to fight terrorism. He had also accused Islamabad of helping to hide Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

US Director of Defense Press Operations Colonel Robert Manning, speaking to reporters during an off-camera news conference, asserted that Pakistan “remains a critical partner to America’s South Asia strategy.”

“The US and Pakistan have strong mutual interests in the region. As you know, they are critical (and) vital to the South Asia strategy and including the facilitation of a peace process that would lead to a stable and peaceful Afghanistan,” Colonel Manning said.

Responding to a question about the recent series of tweets by President Trump, he said, “They [Pakistan] remain a critical partner in our South Asia strategy and there’s been no change to our military-to-military relationship with Pakistan.”

When told his answers differ with the views of the US president, Colonel Manning added, “I do not have any announcement on any change to the military to military relationship we have with Pakistan.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan, in response to Trump’s interview, hit back at the US president yesterday, saying the “record needs to be put straight on Mr Trump’s tirade against Pakistan”.

In a series of tweets, PM Khan noted:

1. No Pakistani was involved in 9/11 but Pakistan decided to participate in US War on Terror.

2. Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war and over $123 billion was lost to the economy. US “aid” was a minuscule $20 billion.

3. Our tribal areas were devastated and millions of people uprooted from their homes. This war drastically impacted the lives of ordinary Pakistanis.

4. Pakistan continues to provide free lines of ground and air communications (GLOCs/ALOCs).

In reply the US president tweeted, “We no longer pay Pakistan the $Billions because they would take our money and do nothing for us, Bin Laden being a prime example, Afghanistan being another.”

The US had “paid Pakistan billions of dollars and they never informed us he [Osama bin Laden] was living there,” he said, adding that the US should have captured Osama bin Laden long before the 2011 Abbottabad raid.

PM Khan fired back at Trump, saying the US president’s “false assertions add insult to injury Pakistan has suffered in the US War on Terror.”

“Trump’s false assertions add insult to the injury Pakistan has suffered in US WoT in terms of lives lost and destabilised and economic costs. He needs to be informed about historical facts,” the prime minister tweeted.

Pakistan has suffered enough fighting US’s war. Now we will do what is best for our people and our interests,” he said.

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