Pakistan said on Monday U.S. President Donald Trump has sought its help with faltering Afghan peace talks, part of intensifying efforts by Trump to end one of America’s longest wars.
Trump, in a letter to new Prime Minister Imran Khan, asked for Pakistan’s “support and facilitation” in negotiating an end to the war and offered to renew the strained relationship, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said.
The overture to Khan represents a sea change from Trump’s normally harsh rhetoric towards Pakistan, and will add to growing speculation that the United States is planning to pull out of Afghanistan in the near future.
The U.S. president wants to bring to a close the 17-year-old conflict between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, who are fighting to drive out international forces and reestablish their version of strict Islamic law after their 2001 ouster.
U.S. officials have long been pushing Pakistan to lean on Taliban leaders, who Washington says are based inside Pakistan, to bring them to the negotiating table.
“He has asked for Pakistan’s cooperation to bring the Taliban into talks,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Reuters.
Trump told Khan the Pakistan relationship was very important to the United States and to finding a solution to the Afghanistan conflict, Chaudhry added.
The U.S. embassy in Islamabad had no immediate comment on the letter.
Trump has been open about his desire to bring home about 14,000 U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan as part of Resolute Support and a separate counter-terrorism mission aimed against militant groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS.
“President Trump has also acknowledged that the war had cost both USA and Pakistan. He has emphasised that Pakistan and USA should explore opportunities to work together and renew partnership,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The ministry added that Pakistan is committed to playing “a facilitation role in good faith”.
“Peace and stability in Afghanistan remain a shared responsibility.”
Trump has appointed Afghan-born U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad as a special envoy for Afghanistan, tasking him with pushing through peace talks.
Khalilzad last month set a deadline of April 2019 for the war to end. But Afghan Taliban militants last month rejected the proposed deadline and said a three-day meeting in Qatar between their leaders and Khalilzad, to pave the way for peace talks, ended with no agreement.
Khalilzad on Sunday began an eight-country tour, which includes Pakistan, Russia and Qatar, to promote peace and convince the Taliban to join negotiations.
Pakistani officials, who deny offering safe havens to the Afghan Taliban, say their influence on the group has waned over the years.
Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he had formed a 12-strong team to negotiate peace with the Taliban, but warned that implementation of any deal would take at least five years.