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Pakistan providing air and ground logistics support to US despite aid cut: PM

Lahore : Pakistan will continue to provide the United States with air and ground logistics for its troops in Afghanistan in spite of the aid cut, as Islamabad believes it helps the war against terrorism, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said in an interview to the Washington Post.

According to the excerpts of the interview conducted on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and made available to APP, the Prime Minister told the WP that Pakistan had extended support to the US in the fight against terrorism and that it would not be affected by President Trump’s statement and the aid-cut.

“No. That will continue. Because we believe that helps in the war against terror,” he said referring to the assistance that Pakistani provides to the US to supply logistics to its forces in Afghanistan. He was replying to a question if that assistance would be affected by President Trump’s statements. “It (assistance) helps brings stability to Pakistan, so we support that effort.”

Prime Minister Abbasi, to a question said, relations between Pakistan and the United kept changing with the presidents and the Congress. “This has been a relationship that has not been one of trust or stability,” he said.

But, while Pakistan provided unconditional support to the US after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the American quid pro is poor, the PM said, adding that even after the US aid cut, Pakistan continues to provide the US with air and ground logistics for Afghanistan without any contract or payment.

There has been over 1.1 million US overflights within Pakistani airspace used to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and millions of tons of equipment and cargo is transported to American troops using Pakistani land routes.

When asked how he would respond to President Trump’s tweet, in which he accused Pakistan for not being fully cooperative, the Prime Minister said the ground realities did not support his assertion.

“We are committed to fighting the war against terror. There are no two ways about it. We have assisted the U.S. forces and will continue to assist them,” the Prime Minister said, adding that Pakistan has always acted upon actual US intelligence against terrorists.

“We have destroyed the sanctuaries. There has not been a single instance where if actual intelligence has been provided, it has not been acted upon,” he added.

To the contrary, the Prime Minister pointed out that in the last year alone, 29 suicide bombers crossed over from Afghanistan into Pakistan and attacked government installations and people, including an attack on the convoy of the deputy chair of the Senate that killed 22 people.

Replying to a question, the Prime Minister said that Pakistan and the US have had very strong relationship, but it had gone downhill in the past 15 years. He said that Pakistan had received minimal US aid in the last 15 years or so.

But, he calcified that there was no economic aid and the security assistance that US provided to Pakistan was a coalition support fund which it reimbursed Pakistan for the expenses that were made in support of US forces in Afghanistan.

“Security assistance was minimal. There were some military sales – we bought some F-16 fighters, which we did not receive. All that has done is degrade our ability to fight the terrorists,” said the Prime Minister alluding to the cut in security assistance.

Emphasizing Pakistan’s firm commitment to root out menace of terrorism and extremism from its soil, Prime Minister Abbasi said that the country was fighting the largest war on terror in the world.

“We have 200,000 troops fighting a war against terror today on the western border. We have lost 6,500 troops. We have defeated the same enemy the rest of the world failed to defeat in Afghanistan, on the same terrain, with our own resources.”

Prime Minister Abbasi said that there were no sanctuaries in Pakistan and that the country was ready to take action if someone provided a location.

About the situation in neighboring Afghanistan, the Prime Minister said that most of the areas along the border with Pakistan are controlled by the Taliban and the Afghan government had a minimal control there.

He said that Pakistan shares 2,000+plus kilometer border with Afghanistan and of that, there is not a single Afghan soldier or a post on the stretch of 700 kilometers. “Drug trafficking is at the highest level we have seen in 50 years,” he said, adding that Pakistan has now started fencing the border on its side and spending billions of dollar on that.

“We are trying to keep the drugs out, the terrorists out. It is a fluid order: 60,000 to 70,000 undocumented people cross the border every day,” he said.

When his attention was drawn to the US announcement about re-engaging in Afghanistan and sending troops there, the Prime Minister stated that war was not a solution in Afghanistan and the Afghans would have to sit down and resolve their problems.

Speaking on the Pakistan-China relations, the Prime Minister said that the two countries have enjoyed relationship for 70 years and it was a growing relationship. The two countries have military and economic cooperation and now China is making multi-billion dollars of investment into Pakistan through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

He said that investment was not a gift but a package of financial assistance to build projects while cooperation with American companies continues on a secondary level.

Towards the end of the interview when asked what would be his message to President Trump, the Prime Minister replied: “My message would be to look at Pakistan’s viewpoint. The reality of Pakistan very different from the perception he has. Pakistan is a US ally. It is a partner against the same enemy, which is terror”.

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