United States President Donald Trump on Thursday expressed his desire to meet the new leadership of Pakistan and said Washington “will be doing that in not-too-distant future”.
Trump made the statement during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Wednesday where members deliberated US government’s shut down and other matters.
“I look forward to meeting the folks from the new leadership in Pakistan. We will be doing that in not-too-distant future,” he said.
Although the US president underscored wanting a “great” relationship with Islamabad, he maintained Washington’s stance and accused Islamabad of ‘housing the enemy’ and ‘helping’ them.
“I ended the $1.3billion aid to Pakistan because they have not been fair to us. They house the enemy, they help the enemy. We cannot just do that. I ended the money we paid to Pakistan like water – we just paid.”
Bilateral relations between the two countries have been on a downward trend since Trump assumed office in Washington, as almost immediately he blamed Pakistan for the US military’s failure in Afghanistan while fighting the Taliban.
Responding to Trump’s statement, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said Islamabad is interlinked with Afghan peace. “The US’s role is crucial for stability in Afghanistan,” he added.
Fawad stated that improved relations with the US were important for regional stability and progress and urged the US to realise Pakistan’s significance. The information minister further said ties would be aided by US understanding the consequences faced by Pakistan in the aftermath of the war on terrorism.
Trump also mocked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for funding a library in Afghanistan, suggesting it was of no use.
He brought up India’s aid to the war-torn country during a rambling press appearance at a cabinet meeting as he defended his push for the United States to invest less overseas.
While stating that he got along with Modi, Trump said the Indian leader was “constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan”.
“You know what that is? That’s like five hours of what we spend,” Trump said.
“And we’re supposed to say, ‘Oh, thank you for the library.’ I don’t know who’s using it in Afghanistan,” Trump said.
Referring to the low levels of defence spending by NATO allies and the US partly subsidizing their defence, the US president said he did not like being taken advantage by other countries for what they had done for the US for a period of time. “[They] give us soldiers and talk of it like it is the end of the world. And we are subsidizing their militaries by billions and billions – many times of what the soldiers cost that country,”
Reflecting on the American presence in the Middle East – a quagmire for US troops since the 2003 invasion of Iraq on false pretences – he questioned whether Washington’s intervention was needed in the first place. “Whether we should have been in the Middle East or not is a question for a lot of people – you know where I come from on that.”
He also criticised the Democrats for wanting to give away billions in foreign aid but being reluctant when it came to domestic projects such as the wall he wants to build on the US-Mexico border. “So we want to give money to other countries but not to our own country. Which is another thing I have complained about and we are cutting that back. It is very unfair when we give money to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and they do nothing for us.”
Last year, the United States sought Pakistan’s support to advance the Afghan peace process in a letter addressed to the premier by Trump.
The correspondence came after Trump accused Pakistan of “doing nothing” despite receiving “billions of dollars” in aid.