President Trump Formally Invites PM Khan to White House, As Taliban-U.S. Talks Inch America Closer to Withdrawing From Afghanistan

“Our Afghan strategy shall be based on ground realities and not on arbitrary timetables”

PKONWEB — President Donald Trump on Wednesday issued a formal invite to Prime Minister Imran Khan for a visit to the White House on July 22– his first since becoming the head of the government in Pakistan last year.

The formal invitation puts at rest speculations on Khan’s maiden visit and the ambit of US-Pakistan relations going forward, and as Afghan peace talks continue with Islamabad playing key enabler for sake of durable peace in the region.

Observers say the reset button of the two countries bilateral relations was apparently activated with Trump’s letter to Khan in November seeking assistance from Islamabad in achieving a peace deal with the Taliban.

Several rounds of talks since then have been held between the US and Taliban, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announcing peace is possible before September 1.

Khan is also expected to meet with the Taliban this month. However, it is not clear if the meeting– his first, will precede one-on-one meeting with President Trump on July 22.

The visit will focus on strengthening cooperation between the erstwhile cold war allies which had hit a snag on strategic levels.

The turnaround in Afghanistan engagement– political solution rather than military, is something the two leaders had talked about in the past during their runup to the top.

Trump looks forward to welcoming Khan at the White House for talks on strengthening cooperation between the two nations with the aim of “bringing peace, stability, and economic prosperity to the region that has seen far too much conflict.”

Trump’s recognition that “the region has seen far too much conflict” finds resonance in Khan’s narratives that political not military solution is required– Khan’s critics had dubbed him ‘Taliban Khan’ for his views.

Both leaders will “discuss counterterrorism, defense, energy and trade, with the goal of creating the conditions for a peaceful South Asia and an enduring partnership.”

The US has has said it takes cognizance of Pakistan’s equity in the whole process, particularly in Afghan peace.

Pakistan has been a major non-Nato ally of the US in its 18-year Afghanistan counterterrorism engagements, despite hiccups and jug handles.

That Trump reached out to Khan, with the latter responding in kind, has traditional players in diplomacy take a back seat– and reflective of the US president’s penchant to pull surprises and convert crisis into opportunities.

Trump also seeks closure to the festering war as he prepares for a 2020 rerun. The conflict, regarded as the longest war the U.S. has ever been involved in, has already cost American taxpayers over $2 trillion. “Our Afghan strategy shall be based on ground realities and not on arbitrary timetables,” Trump had said in summer of 2017.

Earlier this week, senior Taliban officials and Afghan notables issued a “road map to peace” after two days of talks in Doha, Qatar.

U.S. envoy for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is jetting to China ahead of a trip to Washington to report and consult on the process.

Khalilzad said the latest round of U.S.-Taliban talks, which began on June 29, has been the “most productive session” since they first started last year.