U.S. president says he is willing to mediate between Pakistan and India if both countries’ governments desire it
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday pressed U.S. President Donald Trump to restart talks with the Afghan Taliban and said Washington has a “duty” to calm the Kashmir standoff with India.
“Stability in Afghanistan means stability in Pakistan,” Khan said at the start of a meeting with Trump on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. He also pleaded for help in Kashmir, a disputed Muslim-majority territory, part of which has been placed under a military clampdown by neighboring India, restricting many basic freedoms.
“The most powerful country in the world has a responsibility,” Khan said, calling India’s clampdown “a siege” and warning that the “crisis is going to get much bigger.” Trump responded that he would “certainly” help mediate between Pakistan and India as long as both governments asked for this.
On Afghanistan, Trump said it was “ridiculous” that the United States had been fighting there for 19 years. However he made no promises about restarting peace talks with the Taliban, saying only “we’ll see.”
Trump has frequently called for an end to America’s longest war, launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
A senior U.S. diplomat reached a deal to pull troops after a year of negotiating with Taliban militants. Trump abruptly ended talks earlier this month, revealing on Twitter that he had invited Taliban leaders to the United States but canceled their visit after a bombing in Kabul killed a U.S. soldier.
Khan said just before meeting Trump that he would be underlining that “there’s not going to be a military solution” in Afghanistan, which also neighbors Pakistan. “For 19 years if you have not been able to succeed, you’re not going to be able to succeed in another 19 years,” Khan said in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Khan—whose government has sought to use its influence with the Taliban—admitted that Trump’s snapping off diplomacy caught him off-guard. “We read it in the paper. It should have been at least been discussed with us,” he said.
Khan, a former cricket star who has long criticized military operations against extremists, discounted the possibility that the internationally recognized government would be toppled by the Taliban if U.S. troops pulled out. “I don’t think the Taliban will be able to control the whole country. I think there will be a settlement,” he said. “I honestly believe that this is not the Taliban of 2001. There are lot of things that happened and I believe they will be more accommodating,” he said.
The Taliban imposed an austere version of Islam on most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, banning music and girls’ education and giving refuge to Al Qaeda.