US President Donald Trump speaks during his address to the nation from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia, on August 21, 2017.
Trump said a rapid Afghan exit would leave 'vacuum' for terrorists. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
The pillars of Trump's Afghanistan strategy
02:08 - Source: CNN

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President Trump criticized Pakistan in a speech on Monday

"To scapegoat Pakistan will not help in stabilizing Afghanistan," Pakistan's council said

CNN  — 

Pakistan’s National Security Council issued a strongly worded rebuttal on Thursday to President Donald Trump’s remarks that Pakistan provided “safe havens for terrorist organizations.”

“The (National Security) Committee outrightly rejected the specific allegations and insinuations made against Pakistan,” the council said in a statement. “To scapegoat Pakistan will not help in stabilizing Afghanistan. In fact, being its immediate neighbor, Pakistan has an abiding interest in peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

The rebuttal comes days after Trump’s speech Monday in which he announced that the US military would expand its presence in the war in Afghanistan, now in its 16th year.

In particular, Trump had harsh words for Pakistan, the US ally that borders Afghanistan to the south. He said Washington could “no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations.”

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars. At the same time, they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting … that must change immediately,” Trump added.

In its statement, Pakistan defended its role in the lengthy war and said it has worked to promote peace in Afghanistan.

“The Committee observed that Pakistan has consistently supported all international efforts for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan,” the council’s statement said. “On its own part, Pakistan has taken indiscriminate actions against all terrorist networks and sacrificed tens of thousands of troops and civilians in this fight.”

US officials have long accused Pakistan’s leadership of not doing enough to stabilize Afghanistan and have suspected that Pakistan knowingly hid terrorists.

For example, when US soldiers killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Ladin in a raid in Pakistan in May 2011, White House officials did not inform Islamabad ahead of time. In addition, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar died in April 2013 in Pakistan, a spokesperson for Afghanistan’s president said in 2015.

“Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan (and) much to lose from harboring criminals and terrorists,” Trump said in his speech Monday.

CNN’s James Griffiths contributed to this story.