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U.S. President Donald Trump Seeks Pakistan’s Cooperation For Bringing Peace in Afghanistan

The 17-year Afghan war has intensified in recent months, with the Taliban inflicting heavy casualties on U.S.-backed Afghans security forces.

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Pakistan"s Prime Minister Imran Khan is seen during talks in Beijing, China, VOA
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U.S. President Donald Trump in a letter to Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, has sought Islamabad’s cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the table for negotiating peace in Afghanistan.

Khan revealed to a group of local journalists that he received the letter Monday morning and promised Pakistan will make “all possible efforts” to help with the Afghan peace process.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal later issued a formal statement giving further details.

Trump, Government, Afganistan
President Donald Trump listens to a question as he speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. VOA

“U.S. President Donald Trump, in his letter addressed to Prime Minister Imran Khan, has stated that his most important regional priority was achieving a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war. In this regard, he has sought Pakistan’s support and facilitation,”

 

Faisal said that President Trump in his letter also acknowledged that the war had cost both the U.S. and Pakistan. The American leader went on to emphasize that the two countries “should explore opportunities to work together and renew partnership,” the spokesman added.

“Since Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan, the U.S. decision is welcomed. Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith. Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility,” Faisal concluded.

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan prepares to speak at the opening of the Future Investment Initiative conference, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. VOA

An American Embassy spokesman in Islamabad, when contacted for a confirmation, declined to comment.

The rare contact between the two countries at the highest level comes as a Pakistan’s traditionally tumultuous relationship with the United States has deteriorated over allegations the Taliban continues to use sanctuaries on Pakistani soil for attacks inside Afghanistan.

 

Afghanistan
Afghan National Army troops prepare for an operation against insurgents in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2017. VOA

President Trump reiterated those allegations in a television interview and subsequent tweets last month, justifying his suspension of military assistance to Pakistan. The allegations prompted Khan to also take to Twitter and denounce the U.S. president for questioning Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts. The Pakistani leader insisted his country was being made “a scapegoat” for U.S. military “failures” in Afghanistan.

Also Read: Donald Trump, Angela Merkel Discuss Trade And Security Issues At G-20 Summit

The 17-year Afghan war has intensified in recent months, with the Taliban inflicting heavy casualties on U.S.-backed Afghans security forces and bringing more territory under insurgent control. The U.S. military has lost more than 2,400 service members and spent nearly a trillion dollars since the war started in 2001. (VOA)

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U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan

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Imran Khan, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Pakistan"s Prime Minister Imran Khan is seen during talks in Beijing, China, VOA

The United States said Saturday it welcomes actions Pakistan is taking to promote a negotiated solution to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

The acknowledgement came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his country has arranged another round of Washington’s peace talks with the Afghan Taliban scheduled for Monday.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” a U.S. embassy spokesperson in Kabul told VOA.

US negotiator

U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the spokesperson added.

Neither Khan nor the U.S. spokesperson have disclosed the possible venue for the upcoming meeting with Taliban officials.

Some Afghan sources say Monday’s meeting will take place in Islamabad, but no official confirmation is available.

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U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

Khalilzad, who is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks, is to lead the U.S. delegation in talks with insurgent representatives. This will not be the first time Khalilzad has met with the Taliban.

Since taking office in September, the special U.S. envoy has held two publicly known rounds of preliminary discussions with insurgent negotiators in Qatar, where the Taliban runs its so-called political office. The talks have been for the sake of talks, according to insurgent and other sources aware of the meetings.

Trump’s letter to Khan

U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month wrote a formal letter to Khan asking for his help to bring the Taliban to the table for negotiations. A day later, Khalilzad visited Islamabad where he met with Khan and his military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, to follow-up on Trump’s request, Pakistani officials say.

Speaking in northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday, Khan said the U.S. has changed its tune by requesting help instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. officials have previously insisted.

“By the grace of Allah, the dialogue is now happening inshallah [God willing] on the 17th [Khan did not mention the month] and Pakistan has facilitated the talks between America and the Taliban,” Khan said. He did not share further details.

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Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

Khan recounted Friday that critics used to mock him as “Taliban Khan” for saying the Afghan war could not be ended without political negotiations but now all key stakeholders are jointly working to pursue a political settlement to end the violence in Afghanistan.

“If peace were achieved, God willing, Peshawar will change and become a hub of commerce and tourism, as things around the 2,500 years old living city are likely to change,” Khan said Friday.

Ambassador Khalilzad is 13 days into an 18-day visit to the region. He has traveled to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium and plans to visit the U.A.E. and Qatar.

Withdrawal an issue

Pakistani officials privy to the U.S. interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Also Read: What to Make of Taliban’s Continued Rare Silence on Ghani’s Peace Offer? 

U.S. officials have long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces. (VOA)