Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has acknowledged that there is a “trust deficit” between his country and the US over the issue of Afghanistan even as he asserted that the two countries were talking to bridge their differences. Asif’s remarks came after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his whirlwind visit here outlined the US’ new South Asia Strategy and the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with America and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that can bring stability and security to the region. “Yes there is a trust deficit…but we are talking,” Asif said in response to a question. “Having said that, (I should say) there is a willingness on both sides to bridge this (trust) deficit,” he told BBC Urdu yesterday. The foreign minister also said that the US and international forces had failed to end the conflict in Afghanistan despite their more than a decade long efforts.
“They (US) must do some self-accountability also. Why have they lost 45 per cent of the Afghan territory in the last 10, 12 years,” he asked. Asif also said that Pakistan was not dependent on the US aid as it has been getting only a “trickle” of the assistance. He said Pakistan was also not looking for military hardware from the US. “We do not get any military hardware from the US. We are not like in the past when we were their proxy,” he said. Separately, talking to Geo TV, he said that Pakistani leaders told Tillerson that there were no terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.
“Terrorist attacks are not planned or executed from Pakistani soil, there are no terrorist safe havens in Pakistan, and we made this clear to the US delegation,” Asif said. He said the Pakistani leadership firmly holds on to the stance that it is not protecting or supporting the Haqqani network. “We emphasised again and again that their [US] assessment [about Pakistan] is wrong,” he said.
“We are not responsible for the increase in the drug trade in Afghanistan or the increasing [Afghan] territory occupied by terrorists,” Asif said. Tillerosn paid a short trip to Pakistan yesterday and held a detailed meeting with civil and military leaders in Islamabad. According to a statement by the US embassy, he asked Pakistan to “increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country”. Pakistan regularly denies that it hosts terror groups fighting the US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.