Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif’s tumultuous US visit continues

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has dismissed “hollow allegations” and claims by a number of US officials about his Pakistan’s possible collusion with terrorist groups wreaking havoc in neighboring Afghanistan.

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Washington has long been chiding Islamabad for not doing enough to curb militant groups like the Taliban.

“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,” Asif told reporters on Thursday.

The top Pakistani diplomat made the remarks on the second day of his three-day visit to Washington, DC, which is aimed at mending frayed ties following US President Donald Trump’s introduction of his Afghanistan policy.

The new Republican president denounced the Pakistani government for offering safe haven to “agents of chaos” in a speech in April, when he revealed Washington’s plans for a prolonged military presence in Afghanistan by sending 3,000 more troops to the country.

Doubling down on Trump’s harsh views, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this week that Washington would try “one more time” to work with Pakistan to address the issue before Trump would “take whatever steps are necessary” to change Islamabad’s behavior.

Pushing the envelope even further, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate had maintained relations with “terrorist groups.”

What angered Asif the most, however, were remarks by the Senate panel’s chairman, Arizona Senator John McCain, who said support and sanctuary for certain terrorist groups has been a “feature of” Pakistan’s national security policy for decades.

Asif said McCain was “playing to his constituents.”

Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif slammed powerful Republican Senator John McCain for comparing the war in Afghanistan with that of Vietnam.

“Senator McCain was drawing parallel between Vietnam and the war in Afghanistan. Let me remind him through this forum, he has a poor sense of history,” Asif said while speaking at the US Institute of Peace, a Congress-supported think-tank.

Asif’s remarks surprised the audience mainly because McCain has often come to the defence of Pakistan and has been opposed to taking any punitive measure against the country.

Asif said that when the Americans took over the Vietnam War, they had actually lost the war from day one.

The verdict of history will be that if the way the Afghan problem is being pursued, the United States will lose Afghan War also, Asif said as he expressed his opposition to the new South Asia Strategy of the Trump Administration.

In fact, the US has already lost the war, he said. “You are just trying to salvage the situation over there.”

Asif also warned that pursuing a military solution will force the Taliban and ISIS to join hands.

“That will be the bigge

est curse for us to face, for the region to face. We don’t want to see that situation happening in our region. So that is why we want to cooperate with the Americans with full vigor, honesty and commitment,” he said.

Asif also claimed that Pakistan is the only country which is fighting and winning the war against terrorists.

“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, we are targeting these terrorists,” he added.

According to the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), a Washington DC-based think-tank, US policymakers have been exploring a range of options to adopt a more aggressive approach against Pakistan.

Reducing military aid, increasing unilateral drone activity, and revoking Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally were some of the cards that Washington was likely to play, according to the USIP.

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