Participants of the seventeenth meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) on Tuesday expressed “deep disappointment” at the allegations levelled against Pakistan by US President Donald Trump, saying the accusations strike at the trust between the two countries and negate the sacrifices rendered by the Pakistani nation.
Chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and attended by high-level civil-military leadership, the meeting observed that Pakistan has fought the war against terrorism primarily using its own resources and at a great cost to its economy.
“… even more importantly the huge sacrifices made by Pakistan, including the loss of tens of thousands of lives … could not be trivialised so heartlessly by pushing all of it behind a monetary value – and that too an imagined one,” a press release issued after the meeting in Islamabad said, in a reference to Trump’s claim that the US has “foolishly” given Pakistan over $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years.
The committee members observed that President Trump’s allegations were puzzling because they stand in contrast to the “positive direction” US and Pakistani officials had been pursuing through close interactionin the wake of Trump’s South Asia policy announcement in August.
The US president’s allegations were “completely incomprehensible as they contradicted facts manifestly, struck with great insensitivity at the trust between [the] two nations built over generations, and negated the decades of sacrifices made by the Pakistani nation”, the handout said.
‘Pakistan cannot be held responsible’
The NSC participants noted that it was due to Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts of the last several years that scores of terrorist organisations based in Afghanistan had been unable to expand — “a fact acknowledged by US authorities at the highest levels”.
They observed that Afghanistan-based militants had repeatedly attacked Pakistanis across the border with “impunity” by exploiting presence of millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, a porous Pak-Afghan border and ungoverned spaces inside Afghanistan.
Pakistan continues to support the US-led campaign in Afghanistan and is facilitating the effort through vital lines of communications for smooth counter-terrorism operations by the coalition forces, the committee members noted.
While observing that Pakistan cannot be held responsible for the “collective failure in Afghanistan”, the participants deduced that following are the “real challenges” in the Afghan conflict:
Phenomenal growth of drug production
Expansion of ungoverned spaces inside Afghanistan holding sanctuaries for multiple terrorist organisations
The NSC participants reached the consensus that Pakistan “cannot act in haste” and despite all the allegations will remain committed to playing a constructive role towards an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Zubair Mehmood Hayat, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, Adviser to PM on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Miftah Ismail, National Security Adviser (NSA) Nasser Khan Janjua, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, and senior civil and military officials attended the meeting.
Shortly before the meeting commenced, the military had finalised its suggestions for Pakistan’s response to Trump’s allegations in a Corps Commanders’ Conference held at General Headquarters.
A meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security has also been called on January 5 to discuss the US’s allegations.
Audit of $33bn aid figure can reveal who is ‘lying & deceiving’: Asif
In his first tweet of the new year, Trump had accused Pakistan of basing its relationship with the US on “nothing but lies and deceit”.
“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” he had said.
Following the NSC meeting, Foreign Minister Asif challenged President Trump’s claim that the US has given Pakistan “more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years”, saying verification by an audit firm would prove the US president wrong.
The foreign minister offered that Trump could hire a US-based audit firm “on our expense” to verify the $33 billion aid figure and “let the world know who is lying & deceiving”.
The Pakistan Army spokesman, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, had at a press conference last week asserted that the aid Pakistan received from the US was “reimbursement for support we gave to the coalition for its fight against Al Qaeda.”
“Had we not supported the US and Afghanistan, they would never have been able to defeat Al Qaeda,” he had said.
The US president’s tweet had come in the aftermath of an increasingly terse back-and-forth between Washington and Islamabad since Trump announced his administration’s latest national security strategy.
During the announcement, the US president had been quick to remind Pakistan of its ‘obligation’ to help America “because it receives massive payments” from Washington every year.
“We have made clear to Pakistan that while we desire continued partnership, we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory. And we make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help,” the US president had said.
A Pentagon report to the US Congress, released to the media on Dec 17, had said Washington would also take ‘unilateral steps’ in areas of divergence with Pakistan while expanding cooperation between the two countries where their interests converge.
Subsequently, US Vice President Mike Pence had, in a surprise visit to Afghanistan’s Bagram airbase on Dec 22, warned that Trump has “put Pakistan on notice” in what was the harshest US warning to Islamabad since the beginning of the Afghan war over 16 years ago.
Official sources had told Dawn last week that the Trump administration was also considering withholding $255 million from a fund meant to provide military training and equipment to Pakistan, adding to already existing cuts on reimbursements.