US President Donald Trump sent a letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan requesting his country's help to end the nearly two-decades long conflict in Afghanistan, just weeks after engaging in a Twitter spat with the Pakistani leader.
The letter, confirmed by the National Security Council and the State Department, requests Khan's "full support for the U.S. effort to advance the Afghan peace process," according to a State Department spokesperson. An NSC spokesperson described the letter in a statement as asking for "full support for the U.S.-led Afghan peace process," but the phrase "U.S.-led" was later removed.
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Trump's request follows a month of often harsh presidential language about Pakistan. Trump complained to Fox News in November that Islamabad doesn't do "a damn thing" for the US and charged that its government had helped Osama bin Laden hide. Later that month, he took to Twitter in an extended diatribe, assailing Pakistan for doing "nothing for us."
The NSC and State Department said that in Trump's letter to Khan, which was disclosed by Pakistan, "the President recognizes that Pakistan has the ability to deny the Taliban sanctuary on its territory. The letter also makes clear that Pakistan's assistance with the Afghan peace process is fundamental to building an enduring US-Pakistan partnership."
The letter also specifically calls for Pakistan's cooperation with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who is traveling to Pakistan on his second trip to the region in as many months. According to a State Department note, he is expected to meet with "Afghan government officials and other interested parties to support and facilitate an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan."
Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs seemed receptive to the US President's overture, saying in a statement, "since Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan, US decision is welcomed. Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith. Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility."
The news of Trump's letter to Khan comes just weeks after the US President provoked a geopolitical spat on Twitter, suggesting Pakistan withheld information about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.
"We paid Pakistan Billions of Dollars & they never told us he was living there. Fools!" he wrote in part in a tweet in late November.
"We no longer pay Pakistan the $Billions because they would take our money and do nothing for us, Bin Laden being a prime example, Afghanistan being another. They were just one of many countries that take from the United States without giving anything in return. That's ENDING!," he added.
The Pakistani Prime Minister fired back, tweeting that the "record needs to be put straight on Mr Trump's tirade against Pakistan."
"Our tribal areas were devastated & millions of ppl uprooted from their homes. The war drastically impacted lives of ordinary Pakistanis," Khan wrote.
"Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops & reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before," he added.
The US Charges d'Affaires was summoned by Pakistan's Foreign Minister over the incident, according to a spokesperson from the Ministry. The State Department confirmed the two had met, but would not disclose the details of their conversation.
In early September, the US cut $300 million in military aid to the country out of frustration over what was seen as Islamabad's reluctance to crack down on Afghan Taliban militants in the territory. It also suspended security assistance in January over similar concerns.