US threats against Pakistan can 'negatively affect' existing cooperation: DG ISPR

Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor has said that the United States’ threats against Pakistan with respect to the latter’s alleged support for militant groups can harm the existing coordination and cooperation between the two countries.

Ghafoor when asked to comment on recent threats by US officials, including the warning that US President Donald Trump has “put Pakistan on notice”, said that the state responds to such statements through diplomatic and Foreign Office channels. He, however, made it clear that such threats can “negatively affect” the existing cooperation.

Talking about the issue of US funding to Pakistan, he said that the payments were made under the Coalition Support Fund, which in its essence was “reimbursement” of the amount Pakistan had already spent in the war against terrorism, “under their [the US] coordination”.

“If they [the US] demand us to fight for them because they paid us, [then they should know that] Pakistan is not fighting for money,” he said. “We are not looking for any money, we are not for sale, a trust-based relationship is the only way forward,” he added.

He highlighted that Pakistan has been cooperating with the US significantly over the years in the war against terrorism. He claimed that the US would be unable to defeat Al Qaeda without Pakistan’s support.

Pakistan has supported the US before and after 9/11, he said, adding that the relations should be kept intact.

“Allies and partners do not give notices to each other, neither do they indulge in a blame game,” he said.

Ghafoor said a dialogue should be held through foreign or military diplomacy to build trust and hoped that relations with the US will continue.

Talking about the reasons behind the US’s threatening tone and pressing demands to do more, he said the issue of gains [in the war against terrorism] is linked with local “environment”. He elaborated that the Pakistan Army defeated terrorists within the country, keeping in view the local culture and geography, similarly, Afghanistan has its own history, culture, and geography which foreign forces fighting militants must deal with.

“Besides this, the capability of Afghan forces is another issue so it was not easy to win a war there. Now the US seeks cooperation from Pakistan and we have cooperated a lot. But now the war in Afghanistan has entered into a final phase and the US, allied and Afghan forces will have to fight the war,” he said.

Maj Gen Ghafoor further said that the army has taken several measures which are yet to be taken on the Afghan soil. Citing the example of the 2,611-kilometre long porous border, he said that the army has cleared the Pakistani side of the border and eliminated all terrorist hideouts, but the presence of “boots on the ground” on the Afghan side — either of allied or Afghan forces — is essential.

“They will have to eliminate the vacuum and we also demand from them intelligence sharing and to eliminate Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) elements who are stationed there. We have put a fence at our border and also offered and suggested them to fence their border and establish posts because border coordination and cooperation is very necessary [to end terrorism],” he said.

The DG ISPR emphasised two essential points for peace in the region — return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan and curtailing of narco-trade from Afghanistan. He said Pakistan will be in a better position to claim that there is no facilitator of terrorists in the country if Afghan refugees are taken back.

The US wants Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, “but we cannot go and fight for them inside Afghanistan. They will have to complete their tasks in Afghanistan on their own”, he said.

Rejecting the claims of facilitation of terrorists, he questioned how it could be possible for a terrorist in Pakistan to commit terrorism miles and miles inside Afghanistan if they have their writ on their soil.

He said Pakistan is ready for cooperation with Afghan forces but blame game will take both countries nowhere.