–Foreign Minister Asif tells Senate Pakistan has told Tillerson US must admit it has lost the Afghan war
–Says Pakistan will cooperate in war against terrorism but not at cost of its sovereignty
–Says Pakistan has lost influence over Afghan Taliban after Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s killing
–Says Pakistan will not allow Afghanistan’s role as a facilitator for India
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday told senators that Pakistan had pointed out the failure of the American forces in Afghanistan to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, while asserting that Islamabad will cooperate with Washington in the war against terrorism, but without compromising on its sovereignty.
The foreign minister was briefing the Upper House about Tuesday’s high-level talks between a US delegation led by Tillerson and Pakistan’s top civilian and military leadership.
Asif said that the Pakistani side told the American delegation that their military solution to resolve the Afghanistan issue had failed to achieve the objectives therefore they should now allow their policymakers to device a policy for Afghanistan.
“Their failures over the past 16 years [since the war in Afghanistan started] are before them,” Asif added.
“There will only be room for improvement if Washington accepts its defeat, its failures in Afghanistan,” Asif said. “They are not ready to accept this.”
Asif told the Senate that the US delegation had been categorically told that Pakistan does not want any military hardware, economic resources or material gain from Washington. Rather, Pakistan wants a relationship based on equality with the US.
Asif further informed the Senate that the Pakistani side has told the American delegation that if the latter provides actionable intelligence, Pakistan will act on it. He gave the example of the recent rescue of an American-Canadian couple and their three children from terrorists’ captivity in Kohat.
“However, if they want that we act as their proxies to fight their war… this is unacceptable.”
“We will not compromise on our sovereignty, our dignity,” Asif added. “Our relations [with America] should be based on self-respect and dignity.”
He said, in contrast, Pakistan, which is not a superpower, has gained successes in the war against terror.
“Our country, our military and our police have made sacrifices in the war and in return, we have gained unmatched success.”
Asif also said the country had to make a compromise following the 9/11 attacks, and today the country has to pay a price for it. He added that the incumbent government did not compromise on national interest as former military ruler Pervez Musharraf did and neither were orders taken [from US].
He said Pakistan would see further success if the Parliament, the National Security Committee and the people of the country send a united message as they had after August 21 when US President Donald Trump announced his South Asia policy and lambasted Pakistan for offering safe havens to “agents of chaos”.
At no stage since the policy announcement, have we succumbed to pressure and on Tuesday, for the first time, the civilian and military leadership of Pakistan sat down with the delegation and presented their input.
“At no point during the talks did we adopt an accusatory tone, nor were we apologetic,” the minister told the Senate.
“The institutions of Pakistan will protect the country’s interest,” Asif said.
Asif further told the Senate that the Pakistani side had told the visiting delegation that the influence Pakistan once had over the Taliban has now diminished and there are others who are sponsoring the militant network.
He said that Washington had been tracing Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour for some time but only when he travelled to Pakistani soil he was killed.
“How do you expect that after these incidents Pakistan will have any influence over the Taliban?” Asif said, adding that these points had been raised in Tuesday’s meeting in a “frank” manner.
“We told them that there a number of influential players in the region ─ including China, Turkey and Russia ─ which might not have good relations with America but have a stake in the Afghan dispute.”
“The role of these countries in solving the dispute is indispensable,” Asif added.
Referring to a recent statement by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley where she said that India can help the US in keeping an eye on Pakistan, Asif said that Pakistan “also has a mouth to speak” but will proceed with caution so that relations with America can improve.
Afghanistan’s role as a facilitator for India is not acceptable to Pakistan, said Asif.
He said that nearly 45 per cent of Afghanistan’s territory was under Daesh control, adding that terrorists would not need Pakistan for their hideouts as they have ample space available in Afghanistan. However, he said, Pakistan has managed to restore peace in its territory to a great extent and the number of drone strikes has decreased as compared to previous years.
“We have fought away the elements that were the cause of drone strikes in Pakistan.”
During his speech, Asif said Pakistan is not a superpower but is a nation that has sacrificed its people during the fight against terrorism. The foreign minister added Pakistan had agreed on reconciliation in the past but it was to no avail.
“We would be sent a list [of terrorists],” he said. “We have made the arrests [asked from us] and handed over.” He added the list provided to the Pakistani authorities has Haqqani on the top.
Following the meeting between Pakistani officials and Rex Tillerson in Islamabad, Asif ─ who was a member of the Pakistani delegation ─ said that the American delegation was informed that Washington’s allegations against Pakistan of offering safe havens to terrorists and protecting the Haqqani network are incorrect.
Earlier, in an interview with BBC, Asif said that there is a “huge trust deficit” between Pakistan and the US over the Afghan conflict.
“There is basically one key factor which is missing in our relationship that is trust. We have a huge trust deficit. We are desperately trying, both parties Americans and Pakistanis to bridge this trust deficit.”
The foreign minister stressed that Pakistan did not have terrorist safe havens and the US was not buying Pakistan’s narrative, neither was Pakistan buying the narrative of the US. “But we are talking. They must do some self-accountability also. Why have they lost 45% of Afghan territory in last 10-12 years.”
Asif blamed the ‘ineptitude’ of US and international forces in Afghanistan for not ending the conflict.
He also dismissed the possibility of economic sanctions being levelled against Pakistan by the US if his country is not deemed to be “doing enough” to tackle the Taliban.
Pakistan only received “a trickle” of economic assistance from the US, said the foreign minister.
“We do not get any military hardware from them [US]. We are not like in the past when we were their proxy.”
Asif also mentioned that Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed’s name was not on the list of 75 militants the US had handed over to Pakistan.
“The Haqqani network is on the top of the list but none of the militants are Pakistanis,” Asif told senators.