Pakistan Hits Back at Donald Trump, Says They are still Paying for Supporting U.S.'s Afghan War
File image of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan | (Photo Credits: PTI)

US President Donald Trump’s criticism of Pakistan’s betrayal seems to have hit a nerve in Islamabad. The country’s newly elected prime minister was quick to lash out against Trump’s ‘tirade.’

Prime Minister Imran Khan sent out a series of tweets on Monday, saying the U.S., instead of making Pakistan a "scapegoat" for its failures in Afghanistan, should find out why the Taliban has emerged stronger than before.

Khan's tweets came a day after President Trump defended his decision to stop hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan for “not doing a damn thing for us” and criticised Islamabad for offering a hideout to Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad.

Imran Khan tweeted, "Record needs to be put straight on Mr Trump's tirade against Pakistan," and pointed out that Pakistan decided to "participate in the US War on Terror" although no Pakistani was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

"Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war and over USD 123 billion was lost," he said, of which "US 'aid' was a miniscule USD 20bn", Khan said.

"Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140,000 NATO troops, plus 250,000 Afghan troops and reportedly USD 1 trillion spent on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before," he suggested.

In addition to economic losses, the prime minister highlighted the impact of the US war on Pakistan's tribal areas. "Our tribal areas were devastated and millions of people were uprooted from their homes. The war drastically impacted the lives of ordinary Pakistanis," he said. "Pakistan continues to provide free lines of ground and air communications...)," he added.

"Can Mr Trump name another ally that gave such sacrifices?" he asked.

Earlier, Pakistan's Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari attacked President Trump's criticism of Islamabad's dubious role in the war against terrorism. She said the US President "suffers conveniently from perpetual historic amnesia!"

The minister, known to be a US hawk, in a series of tweets said that whether China or Iran, U.S. policies of "containment and isolation" do not coincide with Pakistan's strategic interests.

Mazari, a close aide of Prime Minister Khan, said Trump's latest criticism of Pakistan should be a "lesson" to those Pakistani leaders who "appeased" America, especially after the 9/11 terror attacks. "The illegal killings by drone attacks; the list is endless but once again history shows appeasement does not work. Also, whether China or Iran, US policies of containment & isolation do not coincide with Pak strategic interests," Mazari said.

Referring to bin Laden and his hideout in Abbottabad, Trump in an interview to Fox News on Sunday said, "You know, living – think of this – living in Pakistan, beautifully in Pakistan in what I guess they considered a nice mansion, I don't know, I've seen nicer." "But living in Pakistan right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there," he added.

"And we give Pakistan USD 1.3 billion a year. ... (Laden] lived in Pakistan, we're supporting Pakistan, we're giving them USD 1.3 billion a year -- which we don't give them anymore, by the way, I ended it because they don't do anything for us, they don't do a damn thing for us," he said.

The ties between the two former allies have become increasingly strained after Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad in 2011. While announcing his Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August last year, Trump hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens to "agents of chaos" that kill Americans in Afghanistan and warned Islamabad that it has "much to lose" by harbouring terrorists.

In September, the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups like the Haqqani Network and Taliban groups active on its soil.

However, the Pentagon has released a statement on Monday that did not back Trump's statements. Pentagon said, "Pakistan remains a critical partner to America's South Asia strategy."

"The US and Pakistan have a strong mutual interests 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 reporters during an off-camera news conference.

"They remain a critical partner in our South Asia strategy and there's been no change to our military-to-military relationship with Pakistan,” Manning said.

The above developments show the US-Pakistan bilateral is caught in a series of transactional developments with the future not looking too bright.  (With PTI inputs)