Donald Trump's plan to block Muslims from the United States was "not well received," according to Aziz
Aziz also said that peace negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban could begin in the coming week or two
Pakistan, a U.S. ally and majority-Muslim country, is not overly concerned about the possibility of Donald Trump occupying the White House or his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, according to a top official.
“What you do in the campaign doesn’t mean that it becomes policy,” said Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s adviser to the Prime Minister on foreign affairs, in an exclusive interview with CNN.
Trump’s plan to block Muslims from the United States was “not well-received,” according to Aziz. But Pakistan, he said, views America as a multicultural society that is too rooted in the ideals of tolerance for such a ban to ever be enacted.
“The strength of these values in America is very strong,” said Aziz. “Even if, you know, for political reasons or short-term popularity somebody espouses these ideas to appeal to one segment of the population, the broad spectrum of America … will not buy this,” said Aziz.
Aziz spoke to CNN on Tuesday while in Washington for meeting with U.S. officials and a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.
At the CFR event, he said that peace negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban could begin in the coming week or two.
As part of the peace process, the United States, China and Pakistan had facilitated talks between the Afghan government and Taliban in July, but further talks were derailed by news of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
Aziz said that some progress had been made by preparing the terms of reference for the talks and the road map for moving forward, but he cautioned that the success of the talks hinges upon the situation on the ground remaining stable. At this point, it’s not clear that there will be more success in moving forward with talks than there has been in previous months.
Aziz also acknowledged that the Taliban leadership is inside Pakistan, giving leverage to his government to pressure them to come to the table.
“We have some influence in them because their leadership is in Pakistan,” he said. They get some medical facilities. Their families are here.”
Pakistan wants U.S. to stay in Afghanistan
Trump, for his part, spoke on Pakistan in the Fox News debate on Thursday night, citing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal as the reason for the United States to stay in Afghanistan.
“I think you have to stay in Afghanistan for a while, because of the fact that you’re right next to Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons and we have to protect that,” said Trump. “Nuclear weapons change the game.”
The United States announced a delay in withdrawing from Afghanistan in October after months of discussions with Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, and the nation’s chief executive officer, Abdullah Abdullah.
The new plan keeps 9,800 troops in Afghanistan until late 2016. That force will then draw down to 5,500 U.S. military personnel, more than five times the number of troops previously set to remain in the country at the start of 2017.
Aziz told CNN that the United States should stay in Afghanistan but not because of his country’s nuclear weapons.
“In our view, a sudden withdrawal would not be advisable,” Aziz said.
Some 195,000 Afghan troops have been trained by the U.S. military, but Aziz cited the country’s lack of an air force to support ground forces in operations against the Taliban as a leading reason for U.S. forces to stay in the country.
The U.S. is assisting Afghanistan with the development of its fledgling air force, training Afghan pilots and supplying MD-530 light-reconnaissance helicopters. The United States also plans to provide Afghanistan with 20 A-29 Super Tucano close air support aircraft, the first four of which were delivered in January.
Pakistan does not see the Taliban as able to achieve victory on the battlefield on the ground but says the group is capable of continuing their insurgency for an “indefinite period.”
“That’s why peace in Afghanistan can come only through a reconciliation process,” said Aziz.
Aziz also said that he doesn’t consider ISIS to be a major threat in the region, saying that there was no “organized structure or presence” of ISIS in Pakistan and that ISIS groups in Afghanistan were simply local Pakistani Taliban splinter groups with no connection to Iraq and Syria that had opted to rebrand in an attempt to raise money.
CNN’s Ryan Browne contributed to this report.