Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan sharply criticized President Donald Trump Monday for questioning Pakistan's anti-terror efforts, saying Washington is making Islamabad “a scapegoat” for U.S. “failures” in Afghanistan.
In an interview that aired Sunday on the U.S. network Fox News, Trump defended his decision to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan, saying the country doesn't "do a damn thing for us.”
The president went on to accuse Pakistan of sheltering al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden before he was tracked and killed by U.S. Special Forces in 2011 during a unilateral daring night helicopter raid deep inside the country.
Khan rejected Trump’s tirade against his country in a series of tweets, saying Pakistan participated in the U.S. “war on terror” even though no Pakistani was involved in the September 2001 attacks on America that prompted the military invasion of Afghanistan.
Khan noted that Pakistan has since suffered 75,000 casualties in the war and suffered economic losses to of more than $123 billion. He added that "U.S. "aid" was what he called a "minuscule" $20 billion.
“The war drastically impacted lives of ordinary Pakistanis. Pak continues to provide free lines of ground & air communications (GLOCs/ALOCs). Can Mr Trump name another ally that gave such sacrifices?,” asked Prime Minister Khan.
The United States and NATO continue to heavily rely on Pakistani land and air routes for sending supplies to their troops in landlocked Afghanistan.
Khan went on to say his country’s military operations to secure the border with Afghanistan in support of the U.S.-led coalition have devastated Pakistani tribal areas near the frontier and uprooted millions of people from their homes.
“Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the U.S. should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops and reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before,” said the Pakistani leader.
"Trump’s false assertions add insult to the injury" Pakistan has suffered in U.S.-led war on terror "in terms of lives lost & destabilised & economic costs." Khan said in another tweet, adding that Trump "needs to be informed" about historical facts and that now Islamabad "will do what is best for our people & our interests."
A traditionally uneasy relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. has deteriorated particularly since August 2017, when President Trump announced his South Asia strategy to tackle the resurgent Afghan Taliban. He directly accused Pakistan at the time of sheltering Taliban and other militants involved in deadly cross-border attacks against U.S. troops.
Islamabad swiftly rejected the accusations as politically motivated and stemming from Afghan battlefield setbacks.
This past January, the U.S. president said that around one billion dollars in military assistance would be suspended until Islamabad improved its counterterrorism record.
Pakistan maintains the money is not assistance but reimbursements for counterterrorism operations its troops conduct to secure the Afghan border in support of coalition actions on the other side.