Pakistan will exercise 'other options' if US continues to ignore, says Pak NSA Moeed Yusuf
Washington/Islamabad, Aug 4 (UNI) In a show of pique, Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf has said that Islamabad has “other options“ if US President Joe Biden continues to ignore the country’s leadership.
“The president of the United States hasn’t spoken to the prime minister (Imran Khan) of such an important country who the US itself says is make-or-break in some cases, in some ways, in Afghanistan — we struggle to understand the signal, right?” Yusuf told The Financial Times in an interview, the Dawn reported.
“We’ve been told every time that… [the phone call] will happen, it’s technical reasons or whatever. But frankly, people don’t believe it,” Yusuf, who was in Washington last week to meet with his US counterpart Jake Sullivan, said.
“If a phone call is a concession, if a security relationship is a concession, Pakistan has options,” Yusuf said, refusing to elaborate.
The US State Department, however, has assured Islamabad that Washington recognises Pakistan’s vital role in restoring peace in Afghanistan and wants the country to play that role. “Pakistan has much to gain and will continue to have a critical role, be well-positioned to have a role in supporting the outcome” in Afghanistan, said US State Department’s spokesman Ned Price.
Briefing journalists in Washington on Monday, Price said that “not only the United States seeks, but many of our international partners, many of the countries in the region also seek” this supporting role from Pakistan. “So, we’ll continue to work and to communicate closely with our Pakistani partners on this,” he added.
The Financial Times on Tuesday reported that in an interview to its correspondent in Washington, Yusuf complained about President Biden’s failure to contact Prime Minister Imran Khan as Washington sought help to stop the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan. “The cold shoulder from Washington comes as the Taliban has captured swathes of territory across Afghanistan in a ruthless offensive emboldened by the US pullout,” the report added.
A Biden administration official told FT: “There are still a number of world leaders President Biden has not been able to speak with personally yet. He looks forward to speaking with Prime Minister Khan when the time is right.”
On Saturday, in a press conference in Washington, Yusuf acknowledged that there have “been ups and downs in US-Pakistan relations but we need to work ahead. And we got a very positive response in terms of moving forward.”
He urged the media not to expect an overnight, revolutionary change in US-Pakistan relations because of these meetings but to remember that “we are focused on substance and have an agreement on how to move forward.”
The process of rebuilding US-Pakistan ties began on May 27 with a meeting between Yusuf and Jake Sullivan in Geneva.
Relations between Pakistan and the US have remained transactional but Islamabad has been pushing for ties that go beyond security and Afghanistan.
Pakistan is keen on a reset in ties with the US, even as Washington has been viewing with unease the growing closeness between Islamabad and Beijing.
Biden did not invite the Pakistani Prime Minister to the Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April this year, though he invited the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina to the virtual event.
Under the Trump administration, the US severed $2 billion in security assistance to Pakistan after Donald Trump accused Islamabad of “nothing but lies and deceit”. After Trump made a deal with the Taliban that relied on help from Pakistan, however, he invited Khan to the White House.
A person familiar with last week’s discussions between Yusuf and his American counterpart Jake Sullivan told FT: “The conversation about Afghanistan had been tough but that securing a political settlement … could help improve the US-Pakistan relationship dramatically”, the Dawn said.