ISLAMABAD - Top American general has told Pakistani army chief that the US values Pakistan’s role in the war on terror and that the recent turbulence in the bilateral relationship remains "a temporary phase."

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa received two telephone calls from Commander US Central Command (Centcom) Gen Joseph L Votel and another from an unnamed US senator over the week to discuss Pak-US security cooperation, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement on Friday.

Gen Votel also assured General Bajwa that Washington "is not contemplating any unilateral action" inside the country, the statement said.

The Pakistani assertion that Votel said no unilateral action inside Pakistan was being considered may have referred to the possibility of cross-border US drone strikes and other military missions targeting Taliban and other militant figures outside the border area.

Votel, who spoke to General Qamar Javed Bajwa twice, also said that the "on-going turbulence" around a tweet by Donald Trump suspending aid to the country was "a temporary phase".

For his part Gen Bajwa told Votel that the "entire Pakistani nation felt betrayed" over the US statements, but insisted Pakistan would continue to support peace efforts in the region despite being made a "scapegoat".

He also said Pakistan would not seek to unfreeze the funding, but does "expect honourable recognition of our contributions, sacrifices and unwavering resolve in fight against terrorism".

The US aid suspension was announced days after Trump tweeted on Jan 1 that the United States had foolishly given Pakistan $33 billion in aid over 15 years and was rewarded with “nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools”.

According to Reuters, it is not clear what prompted Trump’s tweet, which infuriated Pakistani officials and caught the rest of the US administration off guard.

The Pakistani statement on Friday did not directly refer to Trump’s tweet.

General Bajwa further stated that Pakistan shall continue its sincere counter-terrorism efforts even without US financial support in accordance with national interest and shall remain committed to bring it to its logical conclusion along with other stakeholders.

The ISPR press release read, “General Joseph L Votel apprised COAS about the US decision regarding Security Assistance and Coalition Support Fund.”

Gen Votel said the US values Pakistan’s role “towards the war on terror and expected that on-going turbulence [between the two countries] remains a temporary phase”.

The US is not contemplating any unilateral action inside Pakistan but is “seeking cooperation to tackle Afghan nationals who, according to the US, use Pakistan’s soil against Afghanistan,” added the statement.

General Bajwa reiterated Pakistan’s response and said that nation felt betrayed over US statements despite decades of cooperation. “Accordingly, a unanimous national response reflected the same sentiments,” the press release read.

The statement further added that the COAS said Pakistan has suffered greatly due to the power struggle in the region. Continuing he said that Pakistan is fully aware of the US’ concerns with regard to the activities of Afghan nationals in Pakistan, and that “we are already undertaking multiple actions through Operation ‘Raddul Fasaad’ to deny any residual capacity to terrorists of all hue and colour for which return of Afghan refugees is an essential prerequisite.”

The statement further added that Pakistan is strengthening its border controls unilaterally, “but if Afghanistan genuinely feels affected by Pakistan, bilateral border management must be Kabul’s top priority as well.”

The army chief further said that Pakistan does not seek resumption of aid, but “expects an honourable recognition of our contributions, sacrifices and unwavering resolve in the fight against terrorism for the peace and stability of the country.”

He further added that Pakistan will keep supporting all peace initiatives in Afghanistan despite the country’s “tendency to scapegoat Pakistan”, and said that peace in Afghanistan is “the only way to move towards enduring peace and stability in the region”.

Both the generals agreed that the two countries stood to “gain” from “cooperative engagement”.

According to the statement, General Votel acknowledged the effectiveness of some of the recent actions taken by Pakistan ensuring that hospitality given to Afghan refugees is not misused in anyway.”

Giving his reaction, Spokesman Colonel John Thomas said Centcom is in "continuous communication" with the Pakistan military, including recurring conversations between Votel and Bajwa. "We value mutual understanding of interests and concerns that we need to consider that might lead to a positive path forward," Thomas told AFP.

 

PAKISTAN SEEKS TO CLING ON TO ‘DEMANDING US’

 

Pakistan wants to cling on to the “demanding” United States as Washington presses Islamabad to avoid “double game”, diplomatic sources said.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan did not want a rupture in Pak-US ties but was determined to protect its sovereignty.

One official said: “Efforts are on from both the sides to halt a complete breakdown. The efforts are working.”

He added: “The two sides understand that there has to be some “give and take” to continue the partnership. Pakistan has already shown flexibility over the years. Now it is US’ turn.”

Another official said the “demanding US” had asked Pakistan to avoid “double game” and “play fair” with them.

“The US believes we are not fighting the terrorists up to our potential and are also not sharing intelligence as we should. They insist we can do much more [on intelligence sharing and action against terrorists],” he told The Nation, citing contacts with the Americans.

Pakistan has rejected the US allegations that it was not taking action against all the terror networks and also questioned Trump’s claim of giving $33 billion to Pakistan as security assistance.

Islamabad said it had fought the anti-terror war largely from its own resources for the sake of the country’s and global peace.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said that the Pak-US alliance was “over” after the US “betrayal”.

However, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said Pakistan and the US were in talks to remove the misunderstandings.

He said there had been “provocative statements” by the US leadership but Pakistan was against quitting the partnership in the interest of the region.

Faisal said it was due to Pakistan’s intelligence sharing that Al-Qaeda was defeated in Afghanistan.

“The US knows our importance. We have been providing them supply line [to Afghanistan] for more than 16 years. They need us,” he added.

The spokesperson said the foreign minister’s aggressive statements were an “expression of frustration at the unwarranted US accusations” against Pakistan, and the “unilateral decision to suspend the security assistance.”

 

US terms turbulence in ties temporary