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


No-deal Brexit looms as race for new British PM wraps up

Updated 17 July 2019
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No-deal Brexit looms as race for new British PM wraps up

  • Many lawmakers, business community fear dire economic outcome
  • A majority of lawmakers in the House of Commons are opposed to a no-deal Brexit

LONDON: The battle to become Britain's next prime minister enters the home straight on Wednesday with both candidates hardening their positions on Brexit, putting the future government on a collision course with Brussels.
Ex-London Mayor Boris Johnson, the favourite to replace Theresa May, and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, are now both referring to Britain's departure with no overall deal in place as a realistic prospect.
The business community and many lawmakers fear dire economic consequences from a no-deal Brexit, which would lead to immediate trade tariffs for some sectors including the automotive industry.
Johnson and Hunt are taking part in a final question-and-answer session later on Wednesday before the result of the vote by Conservative Party members is announced next Tuesday.
The new party leader will be confirmed as prime minister by Queen Elizabeth II on the following day.
Britain has twice delayed its scheduled departure from the European Union after 46 years of membership as May tried and failed to get her deal with Brussels through parliament.
The two candidates vying to replace her have vowed to scrap a "backstop" provision in the agreement that Brussels insisted upon to keep the Irish border open.
Their latest attacks on the measure during a debate on Monday prompted a plunge in the value of the British pound.
The currency fell again Wednesday to its lowest level against the US dollar in over two years.
"The tougher stance from both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt in terms of their rhetoric on Brexit is clearly weighing on the pound," said market analyst Neil Wilson.
"Make no mistake, this decline in the pound is down to traders pricing in a higher chance of a no-deal exit."
The backstop has proved a key stumbling block in the Brexit process.
The measure would keep open the post-Brexit border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member the Republic of Ireland whatever the outcome of negotiations over the future relationship between London and Brussels.
Johnson announced early in his campaign that he would not sign up to it and would pursue a no-deal Brexit if required, leading his opponent to follow suit.
However, European leaders have been adamant that the backstop must remain a part of any divorce deal, raising the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who will become European Commission president in November, said the draft withdrawal agreement provided "certainty".
She also broached a possible further delay to Britain's departure, saying: "I stand ready for a further extension of the withdrawal date, should more time be required for a good reason."
Johnson has pledged that under his leadership, Britain will leave "do or die" on the current deadline of October 31.
A majority of lawmakers in the House of Commons are opposed to a no-deal Brexit, but attempts to pass legislation blocking the scenario have failed.
Reports this week suggested Johnson is considering plans to end the current session of parliament in early October, leaving MPs powerless.
Finance Minister Philip Hammond said Wednesday it was "terrifying" that some Brexit supporters thought that no deal would leave Britain better off.
And in a speech in London, May said the "best route" for Britain was to leave with a deal.
Delivering her last major address, she railed against the trend towards "absolutism" in Britain and abroad, and urged her successor to compromise.
"Whatever path we take must be sustainable for the long term, so that delivering Brexit brings our country back together. That has to mean some kind of compromise," she said.