By Ayaz Gul
July 10, 2019
ISLAMABAD – U.S. President Donald Trump will host Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, at the White House on July 22 for official talks aimed at “creating conditions” for an “enduring partnership” and cooperation to secure a peaceful South Asia.
The White House said Wednesday that that the two leaders would discuss such issues as counterterrorism, defense, energy and trade.
Peace efforts in Afghanistan are expected to be high on the agenda.
“The visit will focus on strengthening cooperation between the United States and Pakistan to bring peace, stability and economic prosperity to a region that has seen far too much conflict,” a White House statement said.
Khan’s first interaction with Trump is seen in the region as signaling a thaw in the often acrimonious relationship between Washington and Islamabad.
The acrimony stems from U.S. allegations that, despite having received billions of dollars in financial assistance as an ally in the war against terrorism, Pakistan has harbored Taliban leaders and fighters and other militants who plot deadly attacks against American and NATO troops in Afghanistan and rival India. Islamabad rejects the charges.
Since taking office, Trump has suspended all military cooperation and assistance to Pakistan, alleging the country has “given us nothing but lies and deceit.”
Khan took office nearly a year ago and argued with Trump on Twitter a few months later about the U.S. allegations. He defended Pakistan’s counterterrorism successes, saying the country had suffered tens of thousands of casualties and billions of dollars in losses to its national economy while fighting America’s war on terrorism.
However, Islamabad has since helped arrange direct peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban aimed at ending the 18-year Afghan war. The effort is credited with easing tensions, which prompted Trump to acknowledge in February that the two countries had recently “developed a much better relationship.”
Analysts do not expect anything major to emerge from the Trump-Khan meeting, but they note it could still go a long way toward improving bilateral ties because both leaders dislike the status quo and have strong personalities.
Trump has consistently been critical of U.S. involvement in foreign wars while Khan is known for leading anti-war campaigns and calling for seeking a politically negotiated settlement to the Afghan war, even when his party was in the opposition.