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Trump to meet with Pakistan PM, talks to focus on Afghanistan

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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (C) addresses the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor in Kartarpur on November 28, 2018. (Photo by ARIF ALI / AFP)

US President Donald Trump was set to meet Monday with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for talks centering on Afghanistan as the US seeks a peace accord with the Taliban to end more than 18 years of war.

In his first visit to the White House since taking power, the former cricket star can expect to hear demands from Trump, who in the past has accused Pakistan of lying and being duplicitous.

The goal of the visit, said a senior Trump administration official, is “to press for concrete cooperation from Pakistan to advance the Afghanistan peace process.”

The Trump administration also wants to encourage Pakistan to “deepen and sustain its recent effort to crack down on militants and terrorists within its territory,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The United States is pressing for a political agreement with the Taliban before presidential voting in Afghanistan in late September. This would clear the way for most US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan and bring an end to America’s longest war.

Washington and Kabul accuse Pakistan of supporting armed extremist groups such as the Haqqani network, which is an ally of the Taliban, by giving it refuge in Pakistani regions along the border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan denies providing such support and argues that, in fact, it has sustained huge losses in terms of lives and money as it fights extremism.

“We are concerned about the links between these groups and Pakistan’s intelligence services and military,” the administration official said, referring to Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani network.

The Pakistanis want to shore up relations with the United States after years of discord.

“One of the big storylines going into the Trump-Khan meeting is the sharp disconnect in expectations,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at The Wilson Center.

“Pakistan wants to use the meeting as an opportunity to reset and broaden the relationship. The US has a more narrowly defined goal of securing more assistance from Pakistan for the Afghanistan peace process,” said Kugelman.

How the two leaders interact — neither was a politician before taking power — will also be watched closely.

Before taking power, Khan once described the idea of meeting with Trump as a “bitter pill” to swallow.


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