US: No Official Confirmation From Pakistan on Suspension of Cooperation
STATE DEPARTMENT, ISLAMABAD The United States says it has not been officially notified that Pakistan has suspended military or intelligence cooperation with Washington.
A State Department official told VOA on Wednesday “we have not received any formal communication from the government of Pakistan regarding a suspension.”
A day earlier, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said there is “… a wide field of intelligence cooperation and defense cooperation, which we have suspended.” He made the statement during a speech Tuesday to the Islamabad-based, government-sponsored Institute for Strategic Studies.
But Khan noted the supply lines for NATO troops in Afghanistan, formally known as the Ground Lines of Communication or the Air Lines of Communication are still open.
The statement comes days after the Trump administration announced the suspension of some $1.9 billion in security assistance to Islamabad, citing what it said was the Pakistani government’s refusal to take more decisive action against terrorism.
In Washington, when asked about the defense minister’s statement suspending cooperation, the State Department said it hopes Pakistan would understand United States’ seriousness and “appreciate the value of this relationship.”
“We stand ready to work with Pakistan in combating all terrorists without distinction, and we hope to be able to renew and deepen our bilateral security relationship when Pakistan demonstrates its willingness to aggressively confront the Taliban network, the Haqqani Network, and other terrorist and military groups that operate from its territory,” Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein told reporters on Tuesday.
Goldstein added the United States is “hopeful that Pakistan will come back to the table” and assist in U.S. efforts to combat terrorism.
Robin Raphel, a former assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, told VOA on Wednesday Washington and Islamabad’s current policy of tit-for-tat will not advance either side’s interest.
The U.S. announced last Thursday it would not deliver military equipment or transfer security-related funds to Pakistan, suspending the so-called Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Coalition Support Funds (CSF) but not civilian assistance to that country.
Monday, a Pentagon spokesman said the United States had conveyed to Pakistan “concrete steps” to take before the United States would resume hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, which was suspended after U.S. President Donald Trump said Pakistan had lied and deceived the United States while providing safe havens to terrorists fighting in Afghanistan.
Pakistan says the United States is scapegoating it for U.S. failures in Afghanistan.
In his Tuesday speech, Pakistani Defense Minister Khan also reminded the United States it needs Pakistan in its fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.
“A reminder is in order. Logistics trump strategy,” he said.
Pakistan blocked the US & NATO troop supply route for months after a 2011 attack by NATO air force accidentally hit two Pakistani check posts, killing more than two dozen Pakistani soldiers.
Pakistan is considered the safest and cheapest route to resupply NATO troops. Other possible routes that go through Central Asian countries are more expensive and pass through a region Russia considers its backyard. Tensions between the United States and Russia have been high since Russia was accused of meddling in the latest U.S. presidential elections.
“We always look at that,” said Goldstein when asked if Washington is assessing alternative routes should Pakistan blocks supply routes to Afghanistan. He added that the U.S. is suspending but not cutting off permanently security aid to Pakistan.
But statements from senior U.S. officials indicate that despite these limitations, the administration is serious in its stance that Pakistan needs to change its behavior.
In a Sunday interview with CBS’s Face the Nation, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said “the president has made very clear that he needs Pakistan to cease being a safe haven for terrorists that threaten the United States of America. End. Period. Full stop.”
Khan said his country wants to keep engagement with the United States open and would use its leverage after the utmost care and deliberation.
Source: Voice of America