WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Imran Khan has revealed that US President Donald Trump wrote to him in 2018 asking for Pakistan’s help to negotiate peace in Afghanistan and he has shown “no hesitation” to do so.
In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Saturday, the prime minister warned that despite his desire to see an end to decades of bloodshed in Afghanistan, he opposed the hasty withdrawal of foreign troops from the war-torn country.
“When President Trump wrote to me in late 2018 asking for Pakistan’s assistance in helping the United States reach a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan, we did not hesitate to convince the president that Pakistan would make every effort to facilitate such an outcome,” he wrote. And we did it.
This understanding “initiates a difficult round of talks between the United States and the Taliban, culminating in the February US-Taliban peace agreement,” Khan wrote.
“This agreement, in turn, has laid the groundwork for talks between the Afghan leadership and the Taliban,” he added.
Imran said Trump asked Pakistan for help for peace talks
Last week, William E. Todd, the new US ambassador to Pakistan, told a congressional panel in Washington that Islamabad now has a more important role to play in ending the Afghan war than in arranging a peace deal with the Taliban.
The US now needs Pakistani support to arrange a deal between the Taliban and the Kabul government, he said, adding that “this is a moment of opportunity for Pakistan to continue to forge a new and better role in the region”.
In writing for The Post, the prime minister indicated Pakistan’s willingness to play this role but urged Washington to beware of regional destroyers while finalizing a peace deal for Afghanistan.
“We must also guard against regional destroyers who do not invest in peace and see instability in Afghanistan as an advantage for their own geopolitical goals,” he wrote.
Khan also raised the issue in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday when he said that after nearly two decades of war, “ it is imperative not to allow ‘destroyers’ inside and outside Afghanistan – to subvert the peace process. “.
In his article, the prime minister said that a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan would be “unwise” and urged “all those who have invested in the Afghan peace process” to “resist the temptation to set an unrealistic timeline”.
In July, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China also warned the United States against withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan immediately, saying terrorist groups could take advantage of it.
“The three sides urge an orderly, responsible and condition-based withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan to avoid a potential revival of terrorists,” said the joint communique issued after the virtual meeting.
But in a speech at the United Nations last week, President Trump indicated he was waiting for the opportunity to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan. “As we speak, the United States is also working to end the war in Afghanistan. And we are bringing our troops home, “he said.
In his op-ed article, Prime Minister Khan assured Washington that “like the United States, Pakistan does not want to see Afghanistan become a haven for international terrorism anymore.”
The Afghan conflict, he said, has taught Pakistan two important lessons: “First, that we are too closely linked to Afghanistan by geography, culture and kinship for events in that country to not overshadow Pakistan. And Pakistan will not know true peace until our Afghan brothers and sisters are reconciled. ”
“We also learned that peace and political stability in Afghanistan cannot be imposed from without. Only an Afghan owned and led reconciliation process can produce lasting peace, ”he said.
The prime minister also highlighted Pakistan’s contribution to the fight against terrorism. “More than 80,000 Pakistani security personnel and civilians have given their lives in the largest and most successful war against terrorism,” he wrote.
Pakistan’s active participation in the war on terror also makes it a regular terrorist target. The attacks, often launched by “externally capable terrorist groups based in Afghanistan,” he said.
He hoped that the Afghan government would eliminate the pockets of terrorism used to carry out “attacks on the Afghan people, the international coalition forces stationed in Afghanistan, and other countries in the region, including Pakistan”.
“Like the United States, we don’t want the blood and treasures that we shed in the fight against terrorism to go to waste,” he said.
The prime minister added that Pakistan was “committed to multilateral collaboration” to achieve peace and stability in the region.
Published in Dawn, September 28, 2020
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