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Pakistan considered the United States as a “friend”, the Foreign Office said on Friday in a statement that appeared to downplay the remarks earlier made by Prime Minister Imran Khan that Washington only found Islamabad useful for clearing the mess in Afghanistan.

Separately, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa also said Pakistan “desires long-term and multi-domain enduring relationship” with the US in a meeting with the US Charge d’Affairs to Pakistan Angela Aggeler.

At a weekly briefing the Foreign Office spokesperson was asked for comment on the prime minister’s remarks, Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, instead of responding directly to the question, highlighted the importance Pakistan attached to its ties with the US.

“On Pakistan’s relation with the United States, we believe that both countries have a history of close cooperative relations, which have served our shared interests,” Chaudhri said without directly contradicting or endorsing the prime minister.

But contrary to the impression given by the prime minister, the spokesperson said that Pakistan had “convergence of views and interests on a number of key issues, including the ongoing Afghan peace process”.

“We both believe that there’s no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and we both want to see peace in Afghanistan,” he went on to say. He added that both Pakistan and the US supported an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan through a process that was owned and led by Afghans themselves.

Read US finds Pakistan useful only to clean up mess in Afghanistan: PM

He said that Pakistan played a key role in facilitating the US-Taliban agreement for peace in Afghanistan in February last year. “We consider the United States a friend and want broad-based relations to achieve our shared objective of peace and prosperity in the region and beyond.”

Relations between Pakistan and the US are challenged by the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan with President Joe Biden refusing to speak to the prime minister despite being in office for 6 months.

Although the Biden administration underscored the importance of Pakistan’s role in the Afghan endgame publicly, but privately they were not happy with Islamabad’s approach.

Pakistan had maintained that the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw troops without any conditions had complicated the problem and that its influence over the Taliban had diminished.

Biden has not just spoken to the prime minister but is also thought to be not forthcoming to Pakistan’s efforts seeking broad-based ties with the US.

“We have repeatedly stated that neither should Pakistan be looked at through the prism of another country, nor should our relations be viewed narrowly,” the spokesperson said. “We want to build long-term, broad-based, comprehensive and mutually beneficial partnerships rather than having transactional relations,” he added.

The spokesperson said that Pakistan would take all such decisions and pursue policies that were in its national interest and contribute to peace and prosperity in the region and beyond.

Responding to a question, the spokesperson said Pakistan always advocated “responsible and orderly” withdrawal of US forces as a hasty drawdown would leave a security vacuum.

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