Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that he is happy that the United States has for the first time agreed with the stance of his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), that there cannot be a military solution to the Afghan war.
Addressing a meeting of the federal cabinet, the premier spoke about his meeting with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, who just concluded a visit to Islamabad.
“Khalilzad was sent by the US President Donald Trump to discuss the Afghan peace process and I am happy that I met him,” Khan said. “I am also happy that for the first time the US has recognised what we [the PTI] have been saying for the past 15 years, that there cannot be a military solution to the Afghan war.”
“The US wants our help to establish peace in Afghanistan, and I always believed that instead of ‘do more’, we should play a role in the Afghan peace process,” the prime minister told cabinet members.
“We will try our best to establish peace in Afghanistan through dialogue,” he added, while lamenting that “we were treated as if we were being given funds to fight someone else’s war”.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s army has thrown its support behind the latest US efforts for a political settlement with the Afghan Taliban to end a 17-year-old war, urging Washington to leave Kabul as a friend of the region rather than a “failure”.
The comments by army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor came after Khalilzad, concluded his visit to Islamabad.
“As much as we can, we will facilitate,” Ghafoor told a news conference in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, replying to a query about what Pakistan could do to help the United States negotiate a political settlement with the Taliban. “What the US is expecting from us, and the foreign office is co-operating with, is that somehow they could have these negotiations with them (Taliban).”
Ghafoor added: “We wish that (the) US leaves Afghanistan as friend of the region, not as a failure.”
He did not elaborate.
Khalilzad, an Afghan-born veteran US diplomat who served as George W Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, was named by the Trump administration three months ago as a special envoy to negotiate peace.
His visit to Pakistan followed a request from US President Donald Trump to Prime Minister Khan seeking assistance in moving forward peace talks.
The overture to Khan came after an exchange of barbed tweets between the leaders last month.
Washington has long been pushing Islamabad to lean on Taliban leaders, who it says are based in Pakistan, to bring them to the negotiating table.
It often accuses Pakistan of covertly sheltering Taliban leaders, an accusation Islamabad vehemently denies.
The United States, which had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at its peak during the first term of former president Barack Obama, withdrew most of them in 2014 but still keeps around 14,000 there.
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