Trump seeks Imran’s help in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Monday that US President Donald Trump has written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking Islamabad’s support in securing a “negotiated settlement” to the war in Afghanistan.
The development comes as Washington steps up efforts to hold peace talks with the resurgent Taliban, more than 17 years after the invasion of Afghanistan.
In the letter, Trump said a settlement is “his most important regional priority”, the Pakistani foreign ministry stated.
“In this regard, he has sought Pakistan’s support and facilitation,” it continued.
The US president wants to bring to a close the 17-year-old conflict between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, who are fighting to drive out international forces and reestablish their version of strict law after their 2001 ouster.
US officials have long been pushing Pakistan to lean on Taliban leaders, who Washington says are based inside Pakistan, to bring them to the negotiating table.
“He has asked for Pakistan’s cooperation to bring the Taliban into talks,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said.
Trump told Khan the Pakistan relationship was very important to the United States and to finding a solution to the Afghanistan conflict, Chaudhry added.
The US Embassy in Islamabad had no immediate comment on the letter.
Trump has been open about his desire to bring home about 14,000 US troops who remain in Afghanistan as part of Resolute Support and a separate counter-terrorism mission aimed against militant groups such as Al Qaeda and IS.
“President Trump has also acknowledged that the war had cost both USA and Pakistan. He has emphasised that Pakistan and USA should explore opportunities to work together and renew partnership,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The ministry added that Pakistan is committed to playing “a facilitation role in good faith”.
“Peace and stability in Afghanistan remain a shared responsibility.”
Trump has appointed Afghan-born US diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad as a special envoy for Afghanistan, tasking him with pushing through peace talks.
Khalilzad last month set a deadline of April 2019 for the war to end. But Afghan Taliban militants last month rejected the proposed deadline and said a three-day meeting in Qatar between their leaders and Khalilzad, to pave the way for peace talks, ended with no agreement.
Khalilzad on Sunday began an eight-country tour, which includes Pakistan, Russia and Qatar, to promote peace and convince the Taliban to join negotiations.
Officially allies in fighting terrorism, Pakistan and the United States have a complicated relationship, bound by Washington’s dependence on Pakistan to supply its troops in Afghanistan but plagued by accusations Islamabad is playing a double game.
Last month, Trump said in an interview Pakistan doesn’t “do a damn thing” for the United States despite billions of dollars in US aid, adding that Pakistani officials knew of former Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s location before his killing by US troops in a 2011 raid inside Pakistan.
Khan hit back by saying the United States should not blame Pakistan for its failings in Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials, who deny offering safe havens to the Afghan Taliban, say their influence on the group has waned over the years.
Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he had formed a 12-strong team to negotiate peace with the Taliban, but warned that implementation of any deal would take at least five years. — Reuters