Trump-Khan twitter spat rattles US and Pakistan’s relations

In a televised interview on Monday, President Trump alleged that Pakistan had “never told us (America) that he was living there”, accusing Islamabad of deliberately hiding Bin Laden while taking billions of dollars of US taxpayers’ money as aid. (AFP/File)
Updated 20 November 2018
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Trump-Khan twitter spat rattles US and Pakistan’s relations

  • Islamabad summons envoy to lodge a protest
  • Washington expected to issue a statement to address the diplomatic row

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has summoned the US Chargé d’Affaires (CdA) in Islamabad, Ambassador Paul Jones, “to register a strong protest” against the unwarranted and unsubstantiated allegations leveled by President Donald Trump on Islamabad’s role in fighting terrorism and in the arrest of Osama bin Laden.
Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua told Jones on Tuesday that “such baseless rhetoric about Pakistan was totally unacceptable”.
US Embassy’s spokesperson in Islamabad confirmed to Arab News “that Ambassador Jones did meet with the Foreign Secretary at her request”, without sharing Jones’ response to the statement. The matter is most likely to be addressed at the state briefing in Washington and possibly at the White House on Tuesday, the spokesperson added.
In a televised interview on Monday, President Trump alleged that Pakistan had “never told us (America) that he was living there”, accusing Islamabad of deliberately hiding Bin Laden while taking billions of dollars of US taxpayers’ money as aid.
“Rejecting the insinuations about OBL (Osama Bin Laden), the Foreign Secretary reminded the US CdA that it was Pakistan’s intelligence cooperation that had provided the initial evidence to trace the whereabouts of OBL,” a senior ministry official said.
Following several comments posted by Trump on Twitter, Prime Minister Imran Khan hit back and reminded the US president of Pakistan’s sacrifices in supporting the “war against terror” and in the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
“The record needs to be put straight on Mr. Trump’s tirade against Pakistan: 1. No Pakistani was involved in 9/11 but Pak decided to participate in US War on Terror. 2. Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war & over $123bn was lost to economy. US “aid” was a minuscule $20 bn,” he tweeted.
In May this year, the US Committee on Armed Services House of Representatives — citing serious concerns on Pakistan’s commitment in tackling the insurgency ostensibly thriving in its porous border with Afghanistan — called for drastic cuts to the monetary assistance provided to Islamabad.
From roughly $2 billion, the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) — which is paid to Pakistan annually — was reduced to hundreds of millions, but with strings attached. Later in September, days ahead of US Secretary Mike Pompeo’s visit to Pakistan, the US canceled $300 million in its CSF to Islamabad, asserting the lack of “decisive actions” on part of Pakistan to support Trump’s South Asia strategy, which it claimed was vital for its success in ending the Afghan war.
The dramatic drop in funds is part of punitive measures in Washington’s South Asia and Afghan policy unveiled last year – a counter to Pakistan’s failure to comply with US demands. 
Furthermore, Trump in one of his several tweets said: “We no longer pay Pakistan the $Billions because they would take our money and do nothing for us, Bin Laden being a prime example, Afghanistan being another. They were just one of many countries that take from the United States without giving anything in return. That’s ENDING!”
Earlier on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Dr. Muhammad Faisal, told Arab News that the funds should not be viewed as aid but “reimbursements to be made to Pakistan under the CSF” for the logistical and operational support extended to the US which is “discontinued”. 
Trump’s accusations against Pakistan have driven a nail into the very issues between Islamabad and Washington which both sides have been trying to mend, even as they look to “reset an environment” of frosty relations. However, they have failed to meet eye to eye on certain matters as it conflicts with national interests.
Following Trump’s accusations, the Pentagon, however, said on Tuesday that its relations with Pakistan’s military remain unchanged.
“The US and Pakistan have a strong mutual interest in the region. As you know, they are critical (and) vital to the South Asia strategy and including the facilitation of a peace process that would lead to a stable and peaceful Afghanistan,” Col Rob Manning, director of defense press operations told journalists at a news conference.
“Trump-Khan twitter brawl is not policy level (dispute),” Qamar Cheema, a foreign relations expert, told Arab News, playing down the impact of the social media exchange.
He added that tweets between Trump and retired Navy Admiral William McRaven were “a domestic political fight” which eventually led to the “US-Pak diplomatic commotion”. 

TRUMP'S TWEETS

KHAN'S REACTION


Explosions hit Afghan celebration, Helmand governor hurt

Updated 23 March 2019
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Explosions hit Afghan celebration, Helmand governor hurt

  • The bombing disrupted Farmers Day celebrations
  • The cause of the explosion is not yet identified

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan: Two explosions went off at a public celebration in the southern Afghan city of Lashkar Gah on Saturday, killing two people and wounding the governor of Helmand province, security and hospital officials said.

The blasts came during a Farmers Day celebration at an outdoor stadium that was attended by nearly 1,000 people.

The provincial governor, Mohammad Yasin Khan, was knocked over by the blasts before he was quickly removed from the celebration, according to a Reuters witness. The governor’s condition was unclear.

Two people were killed and 23 were wounded, according to initial estimates by hospital officials.

The blasts appeared to have been caused by planted explosives.

The attack is one of several to occur during Afghanistan’s multi-day celebrations to mark its traditional new year, beginning with explosions in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Thursday. Those attacks killed six people and wounded 23 and were claimed by Islamic State.

The traditional new year is widely celebrated in Afghanistan but some hard-line Islamists oppose the festivities, saying they are un-Islamic.

Helmand is one of several Afghan provinces in which insurgents have the greatest control and influence. Lashkar Gah is the provincial capital.

Saturday’s attack came exactly one year after a car bomb killed at least 14 people who had gathered to watch a wrestling match in Lashkar Gah.