Pakistan Has Other Options, NSA Moeed Tells US

Pakistan’s national security adviser Moeed Yusuf, second left, with military officials during a visit to a forward area post in Kashmir last year © AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

Srinagar: Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf has said that Pakistan has other options if US President Joe Biden continues to ignore the country’s leadership.

“The president of the United States hasn’t spoken to the prime minister of such an important country who the US itself says is make-or-break in some cases, in some ways, in Afghanistan — we struggle to understand the signal, right?” Yusuf told The Financial Times in an interview.

“We’ve been told every time that . . . [the phone call] will happen, it’s technical reasons or whatever. But frankly, people don’t believe it,” he said. “If a phone call is a concession, if a security relationship is a concession, Pakistan has options,” he added, refusing to elaborate.

Pakistan has cultivated deep ties with its “iron brother” China, which has invested billions in infrastructure projects as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.

The perceived diplomatic affront marks the latest setback to US-Pakistan relations after their co-operation during the war on terror following the 9/11 attacks in the US.

The cold shoulder from Washington comes as the Taliban has captured swaths of territory across Afghanistan in a ruthless offensive emboldened by the US pullout. The government of Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has openly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban to secure its strategic interests in the region

Washington has leaned on Pakistan in recent years to help bring senior Taliban leadership to the negotiating table and secure a deal to exit the country with few attacks on US soldiers. But despite calls from Khan to broaden US-Pakistan relations beyond Afghanistan, Biden has yet to call him since taking office this year, the FT report said.

The US State Department, however, has assured Islamabad that Washington recognizes Pakistan’s vital role in restoring peace in Afghanistan and wants the country to play that role. “Pakistan has much to gain and will continue to have a critical role, be well-positioned to have a role in supporting the outcome” in Afghanistan, said US State Department’s spokesman Ned Price.

Briefing journalists in Washington on Monday, Price said that “not only the United States seeks, but that many of our international partners, many of the countries in the region also seek” this supporting role from Pakistan. “So, we’ll continue to work and to communicate closely with our Pakistani partners on this,” he added.

In 2004, the US named Pakistan an official major non-Nato ally, spurred by Washington’s need for support to fight in Afghanistan. But US administrations have since regularly accused their ally of harbouring Taliban insurgents, claims denied by Pakistan.

Under the Trump administration, the US severed $2 billion in security assistance to Pakistan after Donald Trump accused his ally of “nothing but lies & deceit”. After Trump made a deal with the Taliban that relied on help from Pakistan, however, he invited Imran  Khan to the White House.

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