Published: Sun, January 14, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Pakistan's Imran Khan talks US relations as elections loom

Pakistan's Imran Khan talks US relations as elections loom

Referring to Trump's New Year's Day tweet accusing Islamabad of "lies and deceit" in the war against terrorism, Khan said that the USA president scapegoated Pakistan for the US-led coalition's failure to defeat the Taliban and bring peace to Afghanistan, and that "it was very insulting of him".

U.S. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said the embargo would remain in place until Pakistan takes action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. In response, the Pakistani Foreign Minister stated that his country was no longer in an alliance with the USA and said that its partner was treating it as a "whipping boy" for its failure in Afghanistan, powerfully remarking that America is "a friend who always betrays".

Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, is a candidate to become prime minister in the country's national elections, most likely to be held by July 2018.

"I will dread it, but I will have to swallow the bitter pill and meet him", Khan said.

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Pakistan's army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke with US Central Command General Joseph Votel on the phone and said he feels "betrayed" after recent actions by the US to cut military aid.

"Whether we would be able to communicate, I am not so sure, but of course we, countries, have to work with the United States", he said.

Khan said he has been a strong opponent of Pakistan's participation in the war on terror since it began in 2001 following the September 11 attacks in the United States.

In the weeks since the Trump administration withheld almost $1 billion in security aid for Pakistan, Washington and Islamabad officials have been working to patch things up and avert a risky deterioration in their often troubled relationship.

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Bajwa responded that Pakistan is fully aware of concerns laid out by the U.S. in relation to the terrorist activities of Afghan nationals in Pakistan, and his country is already engaged in several operations against those militants, AP reports.

Pakistan's volatile tribal areas have long served as a hideout and training ground for Taliban insurgents battling worldwide forces in Afghanistan.

US and Pakistani officials say neither has happened, and in conversations over the last week the two sides have tried to move past Trump's incendiary rhetoric.

Pakistan was initially fearful that Trump would launch a strike in Pakistan - similar to the secret 2011 raid that captured Osama bin Laden outside Islamabad - and put its forces on alert the day the aid suspension was announced.

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USA troops have been in the country ever since, supporting the government in Kabul's fight against the Taliban and other insurgents, including Islamic State (IS). Sharif's brother, Shahbaz, is also a potential candidate for the prime minister job.

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