Pakistan wants US to leave region as ‘friend,’ not as ‘failure’

Commenting on Khalilzad's visit to Islamabad, Pakistan military's spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Thursday that "war has not been successful in Afghanistan as it has been in Pakistan” to eliminate terrorism. (AP/File)
Updated 06 December 2018

Pakistan wants US to leave region as ‘friend,’ not as ‘failure’

  • DG ISPR reiterates commitment to resolve Afghan conflict
  • Pakistan PM Khan reaffirms government’s support for the initiative

ISLAMABAD: In an unusual turn of events, the United States has not pushed Pakistan to “do more” for peace in Afghanistan.
Instead, on Thursday, it sought Islamabad’s support to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table to end the decades-old conflict.
“All countries in the region will benefit from peace in Afghanistan,” the US embassy said on Thursday, quoting the US-appointed special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.
It added that Khalilzad had reiterated the sentiment during his visit to Islamabad from December 4-6.
Commenting on Khalilzad's visit to Islamabad, Pakistan military's spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Thursday that "war has not been successful in Afghanistan as it has been in Pakistan” to eliminate terrorism. 
He stressed, that “political reconciliation must succeed” to bring peace in Afghanistan. 
“We wish United States leaves Afghanistan as a friend to the region [and] not as a failure”, Ghafoor, the Director General of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said, pointing to a catastrophic fallout that could follow and impact the country’s socio-economic sector -- a fate Afghanistan has endured after the Russian invasion. 
The US special envoy, along with his delegation, held meetings with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua to discuss the way forward for the Afghan peace strategy.
“In his meetings, Ambassador Khalilzad stressed the United States’ commitment to facilitating a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban,” the US embassy in Islamabad said in a statement.
The US hoped the political settlement in the war-ravaged country will ensure that “Afghanistan never again serve as a platform for international terrorism and ends the 40-years-long war in the country.”
Khalilzad’s visit came a day after US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to PM Khan seeking Islamabad’s “assistance and facilitation in achieving a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war.”
PM Khan on Thursday reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to continue its positive role in seeking a political settlement in Afghanistan to bring peace and stability in the region.
“We have been saying for the last 15 years that there is political solution of Afghan conflict, not the military...and a delegation led by Zalmay Khalilzad has accepted it,” the premier said while addressing a federal cabinet meeting here.
“Pakistan is playing its role for peace in Afghanistan,” he added.
Earlier, while addressing a weekly press briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson, Dr. Mohammad Faisal said that Pakistan was ready to extend its unconditional support to the US for peace in Afghanistan.
“All stakeholders agree on resolution of Afghan conflict through negotiations,” he said, adding that “peaceful solution of the conflict was discussed in detail with the US delegation led by Khalilzad.”
To a question about what Pakistan’s stand was regarding the suspension of a coalition fund by the US in January, the spokesperson said: “Talks with the US have resumed, so let’s see.”
Washington has been pushing Islamabad for long to play its role in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table for a peaceful end to the war.
The relations of both the allies, however, soured when President Trump accused Pakistan of providing a “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt” when he posted a series of tweets on January 1.
In a bid to end the frosty hiatus in diplomatic relations, Khalilzad held a series of meetings with the Pakistani leadership, in Islamabad, in October. The move was part of Washington’s renewed push to arrive at a political solution to the Afghan conflict with assistance from Pakistan.
Political and security analysts, however, view the change in US’ attitude toward Pakistan as a genuine move on part of Washington to resolve the Afghan conflict.
“The US is changing its tactics to seek meaningful cooperation from Pakistan as they think Pakistan can play a critical role for peace in Afghanistan,” General (retd.) Talat Masood, a security analyst, told Arab News.
“It is definite now that they (the US) can’t win (in Afghanistan). Taliban are gaining ground, casualties are reaching a point that they can’t sustain them anymore,” he said, adding that “Pakistan has quite a considerable influence over the Afghan Taliban … this is not possible that Taliban can survive with Pakistan also opposing them.”
Professor Tahir Malik, an international affairs analyst, said that Pakistan was always willing to play its role for peace in Afghanistan, provided “the US agrees to curtail the role of India in Kabul.”
“Pakistan wants to see a favorable government in Kabul, a government which doesn’t become compliant to India,” he told Arab News.
“If Washington addresses some genuine concerns of Islamabad, both can make a significant headway in bringing Taliban to the negotiating table,” he said.


Citing jobs, Trump claims victory over virus, economic collapse

Updated 06 June 2020

Citing jobs, Trump claims victory over virus, economic collapse

  • US tops COVID-19 mortality rally with 108,000 people confirmed dead
  • Trump says more than 1 million Americans would have died had he not acted

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump effectively claimed victory over the economic crisis and COVID-19 on Friday as well as major progress against racial inequality, heartily embracing a better-than-expected jobs report in hopes of convincing a discouraged nation he deserves another four years in office.
In lengthy White House remarks amid sweeping social unrest, a still-rising virus death toll and Depression-level unemployment, the Republican president focused on what he said was improvement in all areas.
He was quick to seize the positive jobs report at a time when his political standing is at one of the weakest points of his presidency less than five months before the general election. Just 2 in 10 voters believe the country is headed in the right direction, a Monmouth University poll found earlier in the week.
The president also addressed the protests, which have calmed in recent days, that followed the death of George Floyd, the black man who died last week when a white police officer knelt for minutes on his neck.
Claiming improvements everywhere, Trump said, “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. ... This is a great, great day in terms of equality.”
Trump condemned “what happened last week,” said no other president has done as much for black Americans, and declared that an economic rebound was “the greatest thing that can happen for race relations.”
Putting words in the dead man’s mouth drew quick criticism, including from likely presidential foe Joe Biden, who said it was “despicable.” The Trump campaign said any reports saying Trump was contending Floyd would be praising the economic news were “wrong, purposefully misrepresented, and maliciously crafted.”
A few blocks away, city workers painted a huge “Black Lives Matter” sign on 16th Street leading to the White House.
Politically, few things matter more to Trump’s future than the state of the US economy, which was all but shut down by state governments this spring to prevent greater spread of the deadly coronavirus. Defying health experts, the president has aggressively encouraged states to re-open and has assailed state leaders by name who resist.
At the same time, he’s taken an uneven approach to explosive racial tensions in the wake of Floyd’s death. As he has in recent days, Trump on Friday offered a sympathetic message to Floyd in one breath and lashed out at protests in his name the next.
Local governments “have to dominate the streets,” Trump said. “You can’t let what’s happening happen.”
The president spoke in the Rose Garden after the Labor Department said that US employers added 2.5 million workers to their payrolls last month. Economists had been expecting them instead to slash 8 million jobs in continuing fallout from the pandemic.
The jobless rate, at 13.3%, is still on par with what the nation witnessed during the Great Depression. And for the second straight month, the Labor Department acknowledged making errors in counting the unemployed during the virus outbreak, saying the real figure is worse than the numbers indicate.
Still, after weeks of dire predictions by economists that unemployment in May could hit 20% or more, the news was seen as evidence that the collapse may have bottomed out in April.
Friday’s report made for some tricky reaction gymnastics for Trump’s Democratic election opponent, Biden, who sought to contrast the improving figures with the fact that millions of Americans are still out of work. The high jobless rate, he said, is due to the Trump administration mishandling the response to the pandemic.
“Let’s be clear about something: The depth of this jobs crisis is not attributable to an act of God but to a failure of a president,” Biden declared in a Delaware speech shortly after Trump spoke.
The presumptive Democratic nominee said Trump was patting himself on the back as America faces some of its sternest challenges ever.
“It’s time for him to step out of his own bunker, take a look around at the consequences,” Biden said.
It’s unclear how many jobs that were lost as a result of the pandemic are permanently gone or whether the reopenings in states will create a second surge of COVID-19 deaths. In addition, the report from mid-May doesn’t reflect the effect that protests across the nation have had on business.
Many economists digging into the jobs report saw a struggle ahead after the burst of hiring last month.
Friday’s report reflected the benefits of nearly $3 trillion in government aid instead of an organic return to normal. Only one of every nine jobs lost because of the pandemic has been recovered, and the specter of corporate bankruptcies hangs over the recovery.
Much of the growth came from 2.7 million workers who were temporarily laid-off going back to their jobs. This likely reflected $510 billion in forgivable loans from the Payroll Protection Program to nearly 4.5 million employers — an administration initiative that helped push the unemployment rate down to 13.3% from 14.7% in April. African American unemployment rose slightly to 16.8 percent.
Late Friday, Trump signed legislation to add new flexibility to the PPP, giving business owners more flexibility to use taxpayer subsidies and extending the life of the program.
As the money from the PPP runs out, there could be another round of layoffs, warned Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Loyola Marymount University.
“There will be continuing residual fear and uncertainty,” Sohn said.
Trump on Friday defended his handling of the pandemic, contending that more than 1 million Americans would have died had he not acted. More than 108,000 people are confirmed to have lost their lives due to the coronavirus, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University.
Now, though, Trump said states and cities should be lifting remaining restrictions. “I don’t know why they continue to lock down,” he said of some jurisdictions that have maintained closings.
Former South Carolina Gov. and Rep. Mark Sanford, a Republican who briefly mounted a primary challenge to Trump last year, dismissed any employment gain due to federal deficit spending.
“What we have right now is federal policy aimed solely at boosting numbers that obviously would help in a reelection effort,” Sanford said in an interview. “We’re literally buying jobs.”
But there was little sign of concern among Trump and his Republican allies in Washington.
“This shows that what we’ve been doing is right,” Trump said of the jobs numbers. He added: “Today is probably the greatest comeback in American history.”
He pitched himself as key to a “rocket ship” rebound that would fail only if he doesn’t win reelection.
“I’m telling you next year, unless something happens or the wrong people get in here, this will turn around,” Trump said.