Trump says Pakistan, US heading towards ‘a much better relationship’

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NEW YORK: United States President Donald Trump on Saturday expressed gratitude to Pakistan and its leadership for their “cooperation”—contrary to the speech he made earlier this year accusing Pakistan of harbouring terrorists.

The American commander-in-chief said that the US is “starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders”.

The statement came following the recovery of a Canadian-American couple and their three children from the custody of an Afghan militant outfit, “safe and sound” through an intelligence-based operation by Pakistan troops and intelligence agencies.

Trump had lauded Pakistan’s efforts for the successful recovery of the kidnapped couple, saying that their release was a “positive moment” for US relations with Pakistan.

The US president has made getting tougher with Pakistan in an effort to get them to crack down on the Taliban a central tenet of his recently announced strategy for Afghanistan and the wider region.

“We hope to see this type of cooperation and teamwork in helping secure the release of remaining hostages and in our future joint counterterrorism operations,” Trump had said in a statement soon after news about the rescue operation surfaced in the media.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Thursday that the successful recovery of the family was what was being referenced Wednesday when Trump told a crowd in Pennsylvania that “something happened today where a country that totally disrespected us called with some very, very important news”.

Trump did not disclose what country or any details involved but said: “One of my generals came in and they said, you know, I have to tell you, a year ago they would have never done that.”

“This is a country that did not respect us, this is a country that respects us now. The world is starting to respect us again, believe me,” Trump said appearing to reference Pakistan and that country’s role in bringing about the recovery of the four hostages.

A senior US official told CNN that US intelligence assets had detected and monitored the movement of vehicles that the US assessed to contain the family.

US officials provided this new intelligence to the Pakistani authorities and US officials even began unilaterally discussing a possible US-staged rescue attempt.

However, to the surprise of the US government, the Pakistani authorities soon called back their US counterparts, informing them that they had taken custody of all five family members.

“That was a surprise to us,” the official said.

Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle had reportedly been abducted from Afghanistan in 2012 while on a backpacking trip. All of their three children were born in captivity.

Trump had disclosed his long-awaited strategy for South Asia, particularly for Afghanistan, back in August.

During the speech, Trump had lashed out at Pakistan and its leadership for providing safe havens and sanctuaries to terrorists, and urged the nation to “do more” to prevent it.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time [when] they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” he said, warning that the vital aid the US offers to the country could be cut.

“That will have to change and that will change immediately.”

Pakistan had reacted strongly to the allegations made by the US president and rejected the claims that the country is providing safe havens to terrorists. The chief of army staff went on to say that it’s time the world “do more” in the fight against terrorism, not Pakistan.