WASHINGTON: The United States has ‘clearly distanced’ itself from Pakistan, former US military chief Mike Mullen said as the White House and the State Department publicly reject claims of their involvement in Pakistan’s domestic politics.

“It is difficult, difficult to say,” said Admiral Mullen when asked to describe Washington’s relations with Pakistan, which was once a close US ally in the war against terror and during the cold war.

“I think we have clearly distanced ourselves from Pakistan over the last decade and Pakistan has more and more fallen under the umbrella of China,” he told VOA Urdu Service in Washington this week.

Admiral Mullen, who was chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 2007 to September 2011, was also named in the so-called Memogate controversy, which revolved around a memorandum, ostensibly seeking US support for preventing a feared military takeover in Pakistan that never happened.

He noted that China was not only Pakistan’s neighbour but it “has been supportive of Pakistan” as well.

This closeness, he said, “suits China’s global ambition” because Beijing would prefer to have a neighbor “closer to them and not close to the US”.

For these reasons, the US-Pakistan relationship “is going to… be tense for quite some time,” he added.

Asked if he believed Pakistan helped the Taliban take over Kabul in August last year, Admiral Mullen said: “They did not do much to stop it for sure.”

He recalled that as the US army chief he had told a congressional hearing that Pakistani intelligence agencies were active in Afghanistan “and I still believe … that connectivity is there. It sort of cuts both ways.”

The former US military chief reiterated a complaint that’s often heard in Washington that Pakistan “played on both sides (the US and the Taliban)” in Afghanistan.

On Thursday afternoon, the White House and the US State Department publicly addressed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s claim that foreign powers were supporting the attempt to unseat him.

During a regular press briefing, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield, however, rejected this claim as incorrect.

“Absolutely no truth to that allegation,” she said, responding to a question.

At the State Department, spokesperson Ned Price also responded to a question about the alleged US involvement in Pakistan’s domestic politics.

“We are closely following developments in Pakistan, we respect and support Pakistan’s constitutional process and rule of law,” Mr Price said. “However, when it comes to that allegation, there is no truth to it.”

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2022



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