Pakistan fires back after Trump tweet it calls ‘incomprehensible’

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan fired back Tuesday after President Donald Trump accused it of harboring terrorists, calling his New Year’s Day tweet “completely incomprehensible.”

The government summoned the U.S. ambassador to complain but stopped short of demands by protesting Islamic groups to expel the envoy.

The latest round of tit-for-tat attacks between the two reluctant allies, neither of whom trusts the other, was ignited by Trump’s tweet on Monday. He said the U.S. had “foolishly” given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid in the last 15 years and had gotten nothing in return but “lies & deceit.”

He also reiterated longstanding allegations that Pakistan gives “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”

A statement issued after a National Security Committee meeting, which was attended by Pakistan’s prime minister and the powerful army chief of staff, said the U.S. was scapegoating Pakistan for its own failure to bring peace to Afghanistan after 16 years of war.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have long accused each other of harboring militants, and have exchanged lists of wanted terrorists they want apprehended and returned. Afghanistan has also provided what it says are the locations of militant camps inside Pakistan.

Pakistan denies supporting militants, pointing to its own war against extremist groups battling to overthrow the government. It blames the burgeoning insurgency in Afghanistan on runaway corruption, infighting that has paralyzed the Kabul government and record drug production. Pakistan says the chaos next door has spawned a proliferation of insurgent groups, including an Islamic State affiliate that has attacked it from hideouts in Afghanistan.

The National Security Committee statement said Pakistan is among the countries hardest hit by terrorist attacks, having lost thousands of civilians and soldiers to the violence that has convulsed the region since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Defense analyst and retired Pakistani Gen. Talat Masood said vilifying Pakistan won’t bring stability to the region and belittles the losses Pakistan has suffered.

“The people of Pakistan, the government of Pakistan (has) been really seriously affected and its consequences are felt every day,” said Masood. “America needs Pakistan. Without the help of Pakistan, it can never have stability in the region.”

Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia program, said withholding aid to Pakistan is unlikely to deter Pakistani support for insurgents it sees as necessary to protect its security interests. Pakistan has long supported Islamic militants battling India in the disputed Kashmir region, and has close ties to the Afghan Taliban.

“If the US truly had leverage, then one would have expected all the arms and money it’s sent to Pakistan over the years to have had happier results for the United States,” he said in an email interview.