President Donald Trump has requested Pakistan’s assistance to help bring the Taliban to the negotiating table to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, said he had received a letter from Trump stating how the war in Afghanistan had cost both the U.S. and Pakistan.
Only last month, Khan’s government summoned the U.S. envoy to Pakistan after Trump told Fox News that Islamabad had harbored al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Khan reacted angrily to Trump’s claim that Islamabad wasn’t doing “a damn thing for us,” and said that Pakistan had lost 75,000 lives in the war, which had also cost it $120 billion.
Khan referred to this in a statement on Monday when he said that Trump had acknowledged “that the war had cost both USA and Pakistan.
“He has emphasized that Pakistan and USA should explore opportunities to work together and renew partnership.”
The ministry “welcomed” the US decision for negotiations, and said that “Pakistan has always supported a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan.”
“Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith. Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility,” the statement said, according to Pakistani news outlet Dawn.
The letter was the first direct communication between the two leaders since Khan took power in August.
Trump has said he wants to bring home the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as part of operation Resolute Support and a separate counterterrorism mission against militant groups such as al Qaeda and Islamic State militant group.
U.S. officials want Pakistan to pressure Taliban leaders, who Washington said were based inside Pakistan, and bring them to the negotiating table.
“He (Trump) has asked for Pakistan’s cooperation to bring the Taliban into talks,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Reuters.
Trump appointed Afghan-born U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad as a special envoy for Afghanistan, help broker peace talks.
Khalilzad has set a deadline of April 2019 for the conflict to end. But Afghan Taliban militants rejected that deadline and said there was no deal after their leaders met him in Qatar, Channel News Asia reported.
Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who has formed a 12-strong team to talk with the Taliban, warned that any peace deal could take at least five years.