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Khawaja Asif says despite spending 16 years in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could not get out of the air base in Bagram during his visit to the country.
Khawaja Asif says despite spending 16 years in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could not get out of the air base in Bagram during his visit to the country.

ISLAMABAD: Taking a swipe at the recently held US-Afghan meeting, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Thursday taunted the United States and Afghanistan for their failure to contain the Afghan insurgency.

Speaking at the National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee, the minister said that despite spending 16 years in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could not get out of the air force base in Bagram during his visit to the country earlier this week.

Meanwhile, making a jibe at the Afghan leadership, Mr Asif — who is known for his own brand of witticism — said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was called to Mr Tillerson’s bunker for talks.

Mr Tillerson had visited Afghanistan on Monday for a couple of hours and held meetings with the Afghan leaders at the air force base because of security reasons. His journey from Qatar to Afghanistan was also cloaked in secrecy.

Says Islamabad is ready to extend support in the fight against terrorism

Mr Asif implied that this episode reflected the security situation in Afghanistan and how the American strategy for the country was faring.

He said Pakistan would not allow itself to be scapegoat for someone else’s failures, though it was ready to extend sincere support in the fight against terrorism for the sake of peace in the region.

“There would be no compromise on the national interest,” he said, assuring the legislators that all dealings with the US would be carried out transparently.

The US has alleged that terrorist sanctuaries exist on Pakistani territory from where the insurgency in Afghanistan is being sustained.

Mr Tillerson, during his visit to Pakistan, said that relationship with Pakistan would be conditional in terms of whether or not it acted on the “specific requests” from US President Donald Trump’s administration.

“We have extended to Pakistan certain expectations we have of their government and their leadership to deal with, in particular these organisations, the leaders of these organisations …action to be taken to begin to deny these organisations the ability to launch attacks against others,” Mr Tillerson told journalists in Delhi.

On Wednesday, Mr Asif told the Senate that Pakistan received a list of 75 wanted terrorists —mostly belonging to the Haqqani network — from the US.

At the committee meeting, the foreign minister, alluding to the decline in the number of drone atta­cks in Pakistani areas, said it was not because the US had run out of missiles, but because there wasn’t much here for them to target.

Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar, the new chairman of foreign affairs committee, observed that it was a moment of truth for the US in Afghanistan and urged the Trump administration not to turn the differences into disputes. He noted that Pakistan’s response to President Trump’s South Asian policy had been collective, measured and based on realistic assessment of the situation.

Mr Bakhtyar, who has previously remained the minister of state for foreign affairs, emphasised the importance of engaging the US in promoting peace in Afghanistan. He expressed the hope that the US would stop seeing Pakistan through the Afghan prism and instead work on a broad-based relationship which would benefit both countries.

Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2017