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President Trump Leans Toward PM Khan For ‘Negotiated Settlement of Afghan War’

This is the first direct communication between the two leaders since Imran Khan assumed power in August–a U-turn in Trump approach but predictably his signature style, observers say.

ISLAMABAD (Dec 3, 2018) — Weeks after President Donald Trump’s outpour on Pakistan thought-leaders (again) for not having done enough for the US in Afghanistan-specific matters, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday received a letter from the US President seeking Islamabad’s “assistance and facilitation in achieving a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war”, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

“President Trump has also acknowledged that the war had cost both USA and Pakistan,” the statement added. “He has emphasized that Pakistan and USA should explore opportunities to work together and renew partnership.”

The ministry “welcomed” the US decision for negotiations, noting that “Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan”.

“Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith,” the statement reads. “Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility.”

Related Article: Is the US In a Hurry to Pullout From Afghanistan?

The development comes amid flurry of ongoing push by the US, Russia, China and Iran for Afghan peace and weeks after PM Khan announced that Pakistan will only ally with the US for peace, and not war (in Afghanistan).”

Last month, two important conferences on Afghanistan (first in Russia and then in Geneva) focused on ending the unwinnable 17-year war. Another 6-nation conference in Tehran on Friday seeks to spotlight security and counter-terrorism in the region.

Afghan Taliban are winning the war in Afghanistan, several independent observers have been pointing out. They have most of the territory under their control and they are still demanding the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

Last month a senior US official said PM Khan could be helpful in the Afghan peace process.

“Pakistan has been saying they will do whatever is possible. They have said all along that the negotiations in Afghanistan have to be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led (though),” the analyst added.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry also confirmed Trump’s letter to Reuters, saying: “President Trump has written a letter. He has asked for Pakistan’s cooperation to bring the Taliban into talks.”

The US seeks political solution rather than a military one as its exit strategy—first revealed in so many words by a top US General in Afghanistan. But the jury is still out US intentions to exit or stay. In either scenario, Pakistan is important, the analyst said.

Related Article: Top US Commander in Afghanistan Reveals Pessimism: ‘‘This is not going to be won militarily’

Trump’s letter was first talked about by the prime minister in a meeting with journalists earlier in the day in the capital.

In the letter, the PM said, Trump has asked Pakistan to play its role in the peace talks which seek to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

This is the first direct communication between the two leaders since Imran Khan assumed power in August–a U-turn in Trump approach but predictably his signature style, observers say.

Trump has been consistent in his criticism of Pakistan since he launched his South Asia and Afghanistan strategy despite multiple attempts made by the two governments to fix the problems in their ties.

Related Article: Tehran Hosting Six-Nation Conference on Fight Against Terrorism

Last month, a row that began with Trump’s interview to Fox News led to a series of tweets by both the US head of state and PM Khan.

President Trump, while talking about the reasons for ending the over a billion dollar annual aid for Pakistan at the beginning of the year, said the country didn’t do “a damn thing for us”.

Prime Minister Khan had led the sharp reaction by political leaders to Trump’s tirade against Pakistan by hinting at review of foreign policy options and asking the US president to introspect on the real reasons for America’s failure in Afghanistan.

A month later it’s deja vu for some Pakistanis, but not a surprise for many serious observers of US-Pakistan relations and regional dynamics.






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