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WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has assured the United States that Pakistan will not block ground and air supply routes to Afghanistan, despite Washington’s decision to suspend its security assistance to Islamabad.

In an interview to The Washington Post, the prime minister warned that Afghanistan could become another Vietnam for the United States if it tried to resolve the Afghan dispute through military means.

Mr Abbasi reminded the interviewer that while the United States reneged on its promises, Pakistan continued its cooperation [with US] despite the suspension of security aid and a bunch of hostile statements from Washington.

“Even today, we continue to provide the United States with air and ground logistics for Afghanistan without any contract or payment. The US equipment goes through Pakistan to Afghanistan,” he said. “There have been over 1.1 million over-flights within our airspace — US aircraft going to Afghanistan and fighting the war there. There have been millions of tonnes of equipment and cargo going there.”

PM warns Afghanistan can become another Vietnam for US

“That [use of airspace] is not going to be affected by [US President] Donald Trump’s statements?” the interviewer asked.

“No. That will continue. Because we believe that it is of help in the war against terror. It helps bring stability to Pakistan, so we support the effort. We have taken our territory back. We have destroyed the sanctuaries,” the prime minister replied.

In his first tweet of 2018, Mr Trump accused Pakistan of “lies and deceit” and claimed that the United States had “foolishly given” the country more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years.

Days after the tweet, the US suspended nearly $2bn of security aid to Pakistan for not taking decisive action against the Haqqani network.

Last week, Mr Trump endorsed a tweet by a US senator who introduced a bill in the Senate, seeking to permanently block all US assistance to Pakistan.

In reply to the question if Afghanistan could be another Vietnam for the United States, Mr Abbasi said: “Yes, if you [US] continue. It was a Vietnam for the Soviets. It was a Vietnam 150 years back when the British Empire sent troops,” the prime minister replied. “The only solution is to engage and get them [Afghanistan] to sit down at the table and resolve their own problems and bring peace to the country.”

Pakistan and the United States, he added, should help facilitate that peace process.

‘Pakistan is a US ally’

When asked what would be his message to President Trump, the prime minister said: “My message would be to look at Pakistan’s viewpoint. The reality of Pakistan is very different from the perception he has. Pakistan is a US ally. It is a partner against the same enemy, which is terror.”

Referring to last year’s US policy statement accusing Pakistan of providing sanctuaries to Afghan terrorists, Mr Abbasi said there were no such sanctuaries in the country anymore.

“If someone provides us with a location, we take action,” he said, insisting that there had not been a single instance where actual intelligence was provided and Pakistan did not act upon it.

The prime minister indicated that the suspension of US aid to Pakistan would not have much of an impact because “there is no economic aid”.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2018