Pakistan: Trump seeks Khan’s help on Taliban talks

Associated Press

Islamabad – President Donald Trump has reached out to Pakistan’s prime minister, sending Imran Khan a letter seeking Islamabad’s cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table to end the 17-year war in neighboring Afghanistan, officials said Monday.

The development could help ease tension between Washington and Islamabad. Relations soured after Trump last month alleged that Pakistan harbored al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden despite getting billions of dollars in American aid.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry quoted Trump as saying in the letter that he considers his most important regional priority achieving a negotiated settlement to the Afghan war and that he was seeking Pakistan’s support and facilitation toward that goal.

It said Trump acknowledged the war has cost dearly both the United State and Pakistan. The ministry also said Trump emphasized Pakistan and Washington “should explore opportunities to work together and renew their partnership.”

Pakistani authorities did not release the letter, which Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Khan received on Monday morning.

The ministry welcomed the U.S. president’s outreach, saying “Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan.”

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

Pakistani media outlets, whose reporters met with Khan in Islamabad on Monday, quoted the prime minister as saying that Pakistan would continue its efforts to help peace in Afghanistan.

When Trump levelled his accusation about bin Laden last month, Islamabad said “such baseless rhetoric … was totally unacceptable.” Khan at the time stressed the United States had provided what he described as a minuscule $20 billion in aid to Pakistan.

Bin Laden was killed by U.S. commandos in a surprise raid in May 2011 in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad.

According to Imtiaz Gul, a Pakistani analyst, Trump’s letter indicates there is a realization within the U.S. administration that Pakistan’s cooperation is vital to ensuring peace in Afghanistan.

Despite near-daily attacks by the Taliban, who now hold sway in about half of Afghanistan’s territory, the Trump administration has stepped up efforts to find a peaceful solution to the protracted war.

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was expected to arrive in Pakistan this week during his visit to the region to revive peace talks with the Taliban.

According to the U.S. State Department, Khalilzad will travel to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Belgium, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar with a delegation from Dec. 2 to Dec. 20.