Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has urged Donald Trump to meet his Pakistani counterpart, PM Imran Khan, as soon as possible in an effort to bring peace to Afghanistan, according to Reuters.
Pakistan’s relationship with Washington has been fraught with suspicion lately, but Graham, who is visiting Pakistan, told reporters that he believes progress can be made under new Pakistani leadership.
“I’ve seen things change here and all in a positive direction,” Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in Islamabad.
Khan has declared his support for a peace agreement in Afghanistan, and Graham’s endorsement of the new Pakistani regime will come as good news for Trump. Graham said Imran Khan’s willingness to aid the peace talks would leave Trump “far more enthusiastic about the region than he is today.”
“With Prime Minister Khan we have a unique opportunity to change our relationship,” Graham said.
He said Pakistan’s relationship with the United States, which has been a transactional relationship, should be replaced with a “strategic” relationship, which would include a free trade agreement.
Washington’s relationship with Islamabad seems to be taking a turn for the better under Khan, and Graham urged Trump not to waste the opportunity to resume peace talks for Afghanistan. Trump has previously indicated that he would be happy to reach a peace deal for a country, which has struggled with the Taliban’s militancy for the last two decades.
After meeting with senior US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, #Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday reiterated his government's commitment to continue working with the United States and other regional stakeholders to find a political settlement in #Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/HEJNMdpRoc— TOLOnews (@TOLOnews) January 21, 2019
As reported by Reuters, Graham’s trip to Pakistan coincided with Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit. Khalilzad, who is the U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, was expected to announce a new date for peace talks with the Taliban, but that doesn’t seem to have materialized with the militant group backing out.
The American delegation also demanded that the Taliban release American academic Kevin King, who was captured from the American University in Kabul after an attack in 2016. Taliban has called the demand “unrealistic,” saying such a move would only be possible if the United States withdraws troops from Afghanistan.
Donald Trump has shown a willingness to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a move which would be in sharp contrast to previous administrations, which have stepped up military presence to counter the Taliban. Experts, however, warn that troops should not be pulled unless the Taliban reaches a ceasefire agreement.
But Graham insisted that Trump would not make any move that would be detrimental to long-term peace in the beleaguered country.
“The world’s not going to let the Taliban take Afghanistan over by force of arms. That would be unconscionable,” Graham said. “Any president who let that happen would go down in history very poorly.”