Friday Oct 06, 2017
WASHINGTON: Foreign minister Khawaja Asif on Thursday described as “hollow allegations” comments by senior US officials and lawmakers during his visit to Washington this week that questioned Pakistan's resolve in fighting militancy.
While US officials have long been critical of the role Pakistan has played in Afghanistan, senior officials have been more pointed in recent days about Islamabad’s alleged support for militant groups.
Earlier this week, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the United States would try “one more time” to work with Pakistan in Afghanistan before US President Donald Trump would “take whatever steps are necessary” to change Pakistan’s behaviour.
The top US military officer also commented on ties and linkages the Trump administration claims Pakistan has with extremist groups.
“You want us to sniff them out, we will do that. You want us to take action against them, whatever action you propose, we will do that… (but) these hollow allegations are not acceptable,” Khawaja Asif told a group of reporters after his meetings with White House National Security Advisor HR McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday.
In August, Trump outlined a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, chastising Pakistan over its alleged support for Afghan militants.
It was reported that possible Trump administration responses were being discussed including expanding US drone strikes and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally.
Asif singled out Senator John McCain — the chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee — saying the senator was “playing to his constituents” when he criticized Pakistan.
“We are not saying we are saints. Perhaps in the past, we made some mistakes. But since the last three, four years, we are wholeheartedly, single-mindedly, targeting these terrorists,” Asif said.
Asif said that Pakistan had less influence over the Taliban than in previous years, which could impact any efforts for peace talks to bring an end to the war in Afghanistan.
He added that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be visiting Pakistan later this month.