Pakistan says US
comments “in-line”
are itself “not in line”

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad on Thursday said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks earlier this week, in which he had said the United States would be reassessing its relationship with Pakistan, were “not in line with the close cooperation” between the two countries.

He made the comment in response to a question during his weekly press conference in Islamabad.

Terming Blinken’s statement a “surprise”, the spokesperson noted that Pakistan’s positive role in the Afghan peace process, facilitation of the multinational evacuation effort from the war-torn country, and continued support for an inclusive political settlement had been “duly acknowledged”, including by the US state department spokesperson in his press briefing on Wednesday.

Ahmad recalled that Pakistan had played a “critical role” in helping the US degrade Al Qaeda’s core leadership in Afghanistan which was the international coalition’s main objective.

Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad addresses a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday. 

Pakistan had “always maintained” that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and a political settlement was the only plausible pathway to sustainable peace in the country, he further noted, adding that the stance was now shared by the US.

Ahmad said that achieving an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan that reflected the country’s diversity and protected the gains made during the last two decades remained a “shared objective” of Pakistan and the US.

“We look forward to building on this convergence while also strengthening other aspects of a broad-based and constructive relationship,” he added.

‘Some conflicting interests’

While testifying before Congress on Monday on the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, Blinken had said the US would be looking at its relationship with Pakistan in the coming weeks to formulate what role Washington would want it to play in the future of Afghanistan.

Blinken told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that Pakistan had a “multiplicity of interests, [with] some that are in conflict with ours”.

Asked by lawmakers if it was time for Washington to reassess its relationship with Pakistan, Blinken said the administration would soon be doing that.

“This is one of the things we’re going to be looking at in the days, and weeks ahead — the role that Pakistan has played over the last 20 years but also the role we would want to see it play in the coming years and what it will take for it to do that,” he said.

Asked about Blinken’s remarks in his press briefing on Wednesday, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the US had been in regular touch with Pakistan and had discussed the situation in Afghanistan in detail.

“Pakistan, we know, has frequently advocated for an inclusive government with broad support in Afghanistan, and what the secretary was referring to yesterday is that we are going to continue to look to Pakistan and to other countries in the region to make good on their public statements, on commitments they have made,” Price said.

These commitments included working constructively with the US and the international community to ensure that they were on the same page on shared priorities, including the humanitarian concerns, rights and gains of the Afghan people over the past 20 years as well as counterterrorism concerns, he added.