Ayaz Gul - VOA News
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan peace, Zalmay Khalilzad, is due to arrive in Islamabad this week to further his mission of encouraging the insurgents to engage in an intra-Afghan peace dialogue to find a negotiating end to the conflict that has also caused record civilian casualties this year.
Khalilzad has recently engaged the Taliban in direct talks to try to initiate Afghan peace negotiations.
The Taliban says it is discussing the withdrawal of NATO and U.S. forces from Afghanistan in talks with Washington.
Analysts increasingly believe that President Trump is considering pulling U.S. forces out of Afghanistan. Khalilzad last week said in a television interview that the president is in “hurry” for peace in Afghanistan to end the suffering of the people in the strife-torn country.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged Monday while speaking to reporters in Brussels that allied nations are paying “a high cost of staying in Afghanistan” in terms of financial and human losses.
“But we have to compare the cost of staying with the cost of leaving,” Stoltenberg noted.
“If NATO and NATO allies left Afghanistan we have to be prepared that there is a high risk that the Taliban will comeback and that different terrorist organizations will be able to gain ground and will establish strong footholds in Afghanistan,” warned the NATO chief.