Trump to Press Pakistan’s Khan on Advancing Afghan Peace

Ayaz Gul – VOA News


Pakistan PM Imran Khan

U.S. President Donald Trump will press Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for help in advancing the peace approach in Afghanistan when the two leaders meet at the White Residence on Monday in their bid to reset strained relations in between the two nations.

Pakistan has arranged Washington’s direct peace negotiations with Taliban insurgents who are fighting neighborhood and U.S.-led international troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

“The objective of the stop by is to press for concrete cooperation from Pakistan to advance the Afghanistan peace approach and to encourage Pakistan to deepen and sustain its current work to crackdown on militants and terrorists inside its territory,” stated a senior U.S. administration official.

The months-extended U.S.-Taliban dialogue has brought the two adversaries in the 18-year-old Afghan war close to concluding a peace agreement to pave the way for ending what has develop into the longest U.S. foreign military intervention.

The U.S. official, who spoke on situation of anonymity on the eve of the Trump-Khan meeting, stated Washington appreciates the “initial steps” Islamabad has taken to facilitate the peace approach but “we are reaching a crucial juncture” and a lot more cooperation is needed to move the approach forward.

“The president will be most interested in encouraging Pakistan to… use its leverage with the Taliban to enable bring about a ceasefire and genuine inter-Afghan negotiation that include things like the Afghan government….We’re hoping that the discussions are productive.”

The Taliban refuses to engage in peace talks with Afghan interlocutors till it concludes an agreement with Washington that would outline a timetable for withdrawal of all American troops. In exchange, the agreement will bind the Taliban to stop foreign militants from utilizing insurgent-controlled locations for international terrorism.

The Taliban insists that as soon as the agreement is signed in the presence of international guarantors it will initiate inter-Afghan talks to talk about a ceasefire and difficulties connected to political governance in the nation.

Final year, President Trump suspended military coaching applications and canceled hundreds of millions of dollars in safety help to Pakistan. He accused the South Asian nation of providing “nothing but lies and deceit” even though providing secure haven to terrorists staging deadly attacks on the Afghan side of the border.

Islamabad rejected the charges and in turn accused Washington of attempting to make Pakistan a scapegoat for U.S. military failures in Afghanistan, plunging bilateral ties to historic lows. Officials in Islamabad say the progress in Afghan peace has led to the warming up of ties with Washington, prompting Trump to invite Khan for the Monday’s meeting.

In the lead up to Khan’s stop by, authorities in Pakistan arrested a radical cleric, Hafiz Saeed, who is wanted by the U.S. for terrorism in India and carries a $10 million reward. Pakistani officials have also taken manage of hundreds of Islamic schools, well being facilities and offices run by banned organizations blamed for cross-border terrorism.

Saeed’s arrest, nevertheless, has come beneath scrutiny simply because he has previously been detained only to be freed by courts for a lack of proof linking him to terrorism.

“We’re monitoring the predicament and — but we wouldn’t want to praise Pakistan for this step also early, simply because, you know, we’ve observed this film just before. We’ve observed this take place in the previous.  And we’re searching for sustained and concrete methods, not just window dressing,” the U.S. official told reporters.

Khan, who arrived in Washington on Saturday, is also accompanied by the Pakistani military chief, Basic Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The Pakistan army has extended been accused of covertly preserving ties with the Afghan Taliban and terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founded by Saeed. India accuses LeT of arranging and executing the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed a lot more than 166 persons, like foreigners.

Yet another irritant in Pakistan’s troubled ties with the U.S. is the detention of Shakil Afridi, the jailed Pakistani medical doctor believed to have assisted the CIA hunt down Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 2001 attacks on America.

“Dr. Afridi is a hero in our nation.  He helped us capture the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks…this is a thing that is of the utmost value to us…it is probably to come up,” the U.S. official stated when asked regardless of whether the administration would raise the challenge in meeting with Khan’s delegation.