Home Global Village Admission of defeat? Trump writes to PM Khan

Admission of defeat? Trump writes to PM Khan


AFP |

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said 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. In a televised interview to selected journalists in the evening, Khan said his government would “try our best to make the Afghan Taliban sit together with the Americans so that negotiations can be carried forward,” without giving further details.

At an international conference on Afghanistan in Geneva last Monday, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said a 12-person Afghan negotiating team has been prepared for peace talks.

US officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border between the two countries.

The White House believes that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and other military bodies have long helped fund and arm the Taliban both for ideological reasons and to counter rising Indian influence in Afghanistan.

Read more: Trump’s Twitter Tirade: America First versus Pakistan First

It believes that a Pakistani crackdown on the militants could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the war. Pakistan has long denied the claims and says it has paid the price for its alliance with the US in the so-called “war on terror”, with thousands of its citizens killed in its long struggle with militancy.

“Trump acknowledged that the war had cost both USA and Pakistan,” the foreign ministry statement continued. Islamabad would help facilitate any talks “in good faith”, the ministry added.

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.

The troubled relationship between Pakistan and the US hit yet another bump last month after Trump declared he had cancelled assistance worth hundreds of millions of dollars because Islamabad does not do “a damn thing” for the US.

Khan hit back at the criticism on Twitter, calling on the US president to name an ally that has sacrificed more against militancy. Trump’s letter came as the US announced Zalmay Khalilzad will make another visit starting this week as special envoy to the region.

Read more: Imran Khan might be a populist, but he is no Donald…

Khalilzad will meet officials in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates, as part of the push for talks. He recently expressed hopes that a peace deal to end the war could be struck before the Afghan presidential election, scheduled for April.

At an international conference on Afghanistan in Geneva last Monday, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said a 12-person Afghan negotiating team has been prepared for peace talks.

But the Taliban, who have previously insisted they will only speak with US officials, rejected Ghani’s overtures, calling the government in Kabul “impotent” and a “waste of time”.

Most of the Pak-US tensions arise from a single source namely India. While Afghanistan figures heavily in statements revolving around Pak-US relations, it is the Indian shadow behind that which is a source of tensions Pakistan’s initiative to open up a dialogue with India, which was dashed by New Delhi’s backtracking, is actually a part of the recent attempts for reset between the US and Pakistan. Washington has always called for an engagement between Pakistan and India in the hopes of stability that largely pays off for the US.

However, the US perception of an Indo-Pak rapprochement largely centers on Pakistan accepting Indian supremacy and its worldview. According to the relevant Pakistani officials and analysts, the US policy for the South Asian region has become a “hostage” to India’s strategic mindset and ambitions. Ever since the rise of China, the US has tried to cultivate India as a counterweight to Beijing and for that purpose, it has tried to appease New Delhi by agreeing to its demands. This approach has cost the US the means to have balanced relations with both sides.

This has led to the US both ignoring the colossal human right violations occurring in Indian Occupied Kashmir as well as Pakistani concerns. Pakistan has stressed the resolution of the Kashmir issue as the main root of peace in the subcontinent as well as the hegemonic desires of India as a stumbling block to peace. The recent inability of Pakistan and India to mend fences stem from New Delhi’s political machinations. New Delhi believes that if it engages Pakistan in a positive manner it will help Islamabad gain credence in the eyes of the world.

Captured Indian intelligence operative Kulbhushan Yadav has identified Indian consulates in Afghanistan as financial conduits for terrorist working inside Pakistan. In the end, if both Shah Mahmood and Pompeo are to have a worthwhile interaction it is necessary for the US to recognize the concerns of Islamabad with respect to India’s role in the region.

The recent closeness of Pakistan to Russia as well as the lucrative 10 bn $ Saudi investment in CPEC is a problem for India which desires a weak isolated western neighbor. Therefore, India always shuns engagement as a means to keep both the US and Pakistan on the backfoot. Afghanistan is a more recent spoiler in Pak-US ties, though it has figured since the 1980s during the Soviet-Afghan war. The more recent downturn arises from the inability of the US to pacify the Taliban insurgency.

Instead of looking at the shortcomings of its own strategy such as an ineffective Afghan government as well as lack of focus due to the Iraq misadventure, it blames “safe havens” inside Pakistani territory as well as tacit ISI support. Pakistan has its own problems with the US presence in Afghanistan. A hostile Afghanistan is the main foundation of the “two-front war” dilemma Islamabad faces since its independence. In addition, it has been a major base for terror groups operating inside Pakistan.

© Agence France-Presse

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