WASHINGTON: The United States has an important and vital relationship with Pakistan and it cannot be ignored even if it is ‘complicated’, says the US State Department.

At a news briefing in Washington on Friday afternoon, the department’s spokesman John Kirby also urged Pakistan to keep open the Torkham border with Afghanistan.

“It is an important, vital relationship that we strongly believe in. Is it complicated at times? Absolutely, it is,” Mr Kirby said when asked to comment on Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz’s recent statement that the relationship between the US and Pakistan has been under stress for the past three months.

“Do we see eye to eye on every issue with Pakistan? No, we don’t. But that’s why the relationship matters so much, because we have shared threats and shared concerns, shared interest in the region, and we’re going to continue to work at it,” Mr Kirby said.

“I would not share that characterisation of it,” the US official replied when a journalist asked if he would acknowledge that this was not “the best of relationships at this point”.

“It is an important relationship that we continue to work at very, very seriously, and we’re going to remain committed to,” he said.

“Afghanistan and Pakistan still face a shared threat from terrorist networks, which continue to still use the spine between those two countries as safe haven,” Mr Kirby replied when asked to comment on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent statement that his country was fighting an undeclared war with Pakistan.

“That’s why we still have a counter-terrorism presence in Afghanistan. It’s why we continue to work with the government of Pakistan as best as we can to help share information as appropriate to help all sides go after this shared threat,” he said.

“This is a shared, common enemy to the people of Afghanistan and to the people of Pakistan, and they have been working and communicating together, and we want to see that kind of dialogue and cooperation continue and to improve.”

Mr Kirby noted that Pakistan had reopened the Torkham border after weeks of tensions and advised both countries to keep it open.

“We want to see it stay open … and we want to see both sides to work through these differences,” he said.

At an international conference on corruption in London on Thursday, President Ghani also rejected British Prime Minister David Cameron’s claim that Afghanistan and Nigeria were among the most corrupt countries in the world. Mr Ghani argued that Afghanistan had a drug problem because there’s demand for drugs in Europe and this problem could be solved by curbing the demand for narcotics.

“The narcotics trade in Afghanistan obviously has been a longstanding problem. We know that the Taliban” continued to profit and to resource themselves off the narcotics trade, so this was not a new concern, Mr Kirby said while commenting on President Ghani’s statement.

“We know that he’s very focused on the issue of corruption in Afghanistan and we fully support those efforts.”

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2016

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