WASHINGTON: National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf has said that the United States and Pakistan are engaged in a positive dialogue to remove the mistrust that overshadows their relations.
Earlier this week, US Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Colin Kahl told a US Senate panel that Pakistan did not want Afghanistan to be a safe haven for terrorist attacks against itself or others and had “continued to give us access to Pakistani airspace and we are in conversation about keeping that access open”.
In an interview to Voice of America (VOA) radio, Mr Yusuf disagreed with the suggestion that the US and Pakistan were on a collision course and from here, their relations could only get worse.
Referring to US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s recent visit to Islamabad, he said: “There is some mistrust that both sides have to overcome, and we are trying to do that, and that is also the reason why she (Sherman) came to Pakistan.”
Mr Yusuf told VOA that both countries “are moving forward in a well-coordinated fashion, and there is no major crisis”.
The security adviser also rejected the claim by some former US officials that the Taliban victory in Kabul has once again raised questions about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
“Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal — by the grace of God — has always been safe and will always remain safe, and if anyone wants to lose sleep over it, it’s their choice,” he said.
But several former US officials told VOA that the withdrawal of US coalition forces from Afghanistan had changed the political calculus of America’s relations with Pakistan, making Washington less reliant on Islamabad when it came to counterterrorism activities.
Former US Defence Secretary and CIA chief Leon Panetta, however, said that the US-Pakistan relationship had always been complex.
“We would try to build a cooperative relationship with them, particularly when Al Qaeda was located in the tribal areas of Pakistan,” Mr Panetta said of his time as CIA director under former President Barack Obama. “As long as we kept them informed, as long as we continued to work with them, they gave us some cooperation.”
But Mr Panetta accused Pakistan of maintaining relationships with terrorist groups for leverage against India, which brought them “very close to the Taliban and the Haqqani network — contributing to a lack of trust between the two nations”.
Mr Panetta and John Bolton, former national security adviser to then-president Donald Trump, told VOA they had significant concerns regarding the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, particularly because groups like the Islamic State-Khorasan, Al Qaeda, and the TTP were once again active in the region.
“The Taliban’s successful takeover of Afghanistan has significantly boosted radical ideology within the Pakistani government, TTP, and terrorists inside Pakistan,” Mr Bolton said. “I’m worried that not only would there be a deliberate policy by the government of Pakistan at that point to transfer nuclear weapons to terrorists or to those who would have the money to pay for them.”
Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2021