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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Pakistan summons US acting ambassador over Trump's Osama bin Laden claims

The row has plunged US-Pakistani relations to a new low

The Pakistan Foreign Ministry summoned the US Charge d'Affaires over comments made by US President Trump. Reuters.
The Pakistan Foreign Ministry summoned the US Charge d'Affaires over comments made by US President Trump. Reuters.

Donald Trump's latest tirade against Pakistan is threatening cooperation for an Afghan peace process Islamabad has warned, as anger over the American president's outburst continued.

Pakistani foreign ministry officials hauled in the acting United States ambassador to register a protest after Mr Trump launched a diatribe against Pakistan's alleged double dealing in hiding Osama bin Laden.

Mr Trump's comments in a weekend television interview ignited a Twitter exchange with Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, who said the US leader needed a history lesson and was blaming his country for American failures.

By Tuesday the row overshadowed a key plank of US foreign policy, as Islamabad appeared to say it could withdraw support for any Afghan peace deal with the Taliban.

Pakistan's support is seen as crucial to fostering negotiations, with US officials believing it retains sway over the militants after supporting them and providing safe havens for years.

Mr Trump's comments that Pakistan knew bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad and had not “done a damn thing” to help America while receiving billions of aid caused outcry.

A Pakistan government statement said the turbulent allies were “working in close coordination with other regional stake holders in order to end the prolonged conflict [in Afghanistan].

“At this critical juncture, baseless allegations about a closed chapter of history could seriously undermine this vital cooperation.”

The foreign ministry said Mr Trump's “baseless rhetoric about Pakistan was totally unacceptable”.

Tehmina Janjua, Pakistan's foreign secretary, said.: “No other country had paid a heavier price than Pakistan in the fight against terrorism.”

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Read more:

Trump says Osama bin Laden should have been captured sooner

Taliban confirms talks with US officials on Afghan conflict

Trump blames Pakistan for US failures, Imran Khan says

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The US leader had told a Fox News interview that the world's most wanted terrorist had been living “beautifully” in “what I guess they considered a nice mansion" before he was killed in a 2011 special forces raid.

“But living in Pakistan right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew [bin Laden] was there."

"And we give Pakistan $1.3 billion a year...[bin Laden] lived in Pakistan, we're supporting Pakistan, we're giving them $1.3 billion a year. I ended it because they don't do anything for us, they don't do a damn thing for us."

Imran Khan hit back at “Trump’s false assertions” saying they added insult to injury after the death toll and economic loss Pakistan had suffered while backing American foreign policy.

“He needs to be informed about historical facts. Pakistan has suffered enough fighting the US's war. Now we will do what is best for our people and our interests,” the former cricketer said.

Frustrated by a lack of progress in Afghanistan and the high cost of its longest ever war, America has attempted to kick start a fledgling peace process this year. But several rounds of contacts between US and Taliban officials are not thought to have yet gone beyond early “talks about talks”.

One Western official told The National that diplomats trying to get negotiations going had long spoken of living under a “Tweet of Damocles” as they awaited an outburst from Mr Trump that could derail sensitive talks.