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Imran Khan meets Trump on July 22

Afghan peace vital for new US-Pak relations

By M M Ali
Pakistanis probably don’t want to hear that Imran Khan is their Donald Trump wrote the Time on July 27,2018 even before the cricketer turned politician took oath of office as the country’s prime minister.
Comparing Imran Khan’s victory in june 2018 election with that of US President Donald Trump’s in 2016,Time even said, ‘the parallels were striking’. Many had recognized the similarities between Khan and Trump, the weekly pointed out.
Was it only for similarities that Trump invited Khan to visit the US in June and then delayed till July 22 for the latter’s preoccupation in budget session – a rare instance for any Pakistani ruler of the recent past?
Designating the Baloch Liberation Army as a terror organization, ahead of Khan’s visit,the US on July 2, probably testifiedthat there has been little change of heart in the administration regarding Pakistan. With little change of heart in the US administration and some personality traits similar to that of Trump,it will now be seen how Khan begins the new inning of US-Pakistan relationship.
But the opposition parties in Pakistan, the leaders of which reigned in Pakistan for over three decades and are either convicted or accused in billions of dollars corruption scam and charges of money laundering, are trying to heat up the ground protesting over various issues ranging from freedom of speech, manipulation of judiciary by the government to ostracize the opposition besides the price hike of essentials.The US role in the past to rehabilitate these corrupt rulers in power is also not unknown.
Khan’s bumpy ride on US-Pak relations
A flash back on some incidents of last one yearmay help readers assess the level of bitterness in the relationship between two countries.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo in an interview with CNBC television in July last year said that there was ‘no rationale’ for a bailout package for Pakistan that pays off Chinese loans.
Whether for harsh US attitudeor for some other reason, hostility toward Pakistan during this period was quite visible in a section of western free media too.
Evidentlyreflecting it during last year’s July 25 elections in Pakistan –that saw defeat of corrupt rulers sticking to power for decades -a section of the western press dubbed the polls ‘rigged’ even before votes were cast.Pompeo’s warning to IMF’s bailout package for Pakistan also came around that time.
Tweeter war
But failure of Trump’s South Asia and Afghanistan strategy within one year of its launch in 2017 helped the US President explore the option of direct talks with Taliban – ousted from power in Afghanistan in 2001 as the US War on Terror began where Pakistan became a frontline state.
Arow began with Trump’s interview to Fox Newsin November 2018, led to a series of tweets by both the US head of state and Prime Minister Khan.
Giving reasons for ending a billion dollar annual aid for Pakistan at the beginning of 2018, Trump said the country didn’t do ‘a damn thing for us’.
Prime Minister Khan then led a sharp reaction to Trump’s tirade against Pakistan by hinting at review of foreign policy options. He asked the US president to introspect on the real reasons for the US failure in Afghanistan.
Pakistan had suffered 75,000 casualties and lost $123 billion as against USD 20 billion in aid during the 18 year US war in Afghanistan, PM Khan reminded.The War on Terror began in Afghanistan in retaliation to September 11, 2001 attacks in the US in which no Pakistani was involved, he pointed out.
Trump concedes and seeks help from Pakistan
Softening his stancein December last, Trump acknowledged it to Imran in a letter that the ‘war had cost both US and Pakistan’.US demand of ‘do more’ from Pakistan also marked a visible change.
Trump also sought Pakistan’s ‘assistance and facilitation in achieving a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war’.The US wanted Islamabad’s influence to persuade the Taliban to hold direct talks with the Afghan government.
Moscow and Beijingkeen about Afghanistan’s conflict resolution brought all the stakeholders on the negotiating table. Somecountries of oil rich Middle East and European Union for an end to the crisis and development of some consensus among stakeholders were also active around the same time.
Afghan Peace Process in Doha
With Pakistan’s active collaboration and facilitation all these efforts and initiatives led to direct talks between US and Taliban followed by a third round intra Afghan dialogue in Doha with participation of the Taliban, Afghan government officials, civil society organisations and women representatives.
Taliban and influential Afghans, including government officials, agreed on a ‘roadmap for peace’ that could hasten the end of the 18-year war.
A statement issued after the dialogue called for an end to civilian casualties and the protection of women’s rights within an ‘Islamic framework’.The non-binding agreement comes as the US and Taliban continue to negotiate an American withdrawal.
The seventh round US-Taliban negotiation in Doha ended on July 9 amidst satisfaction by both sides.
Both sides hoped to reach an agreement that would see US troops pull out in return for a commitment that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for terrorism.The Taliban refused to hold direct negotiations with the Afghan government until the US announces a timetable for the withdrawal.
The Beijing statement asks for ceasefire
Analyzing the outcome of the Afghan peace process in Doha a meeting of the representatives of the ‘US, China, Russia and Pakistan’held in Beijing ‘jointly urged the Taliban to immediately agree to a ceasefire and begin direct negotiations with the Afghanistan government’.
The joint statement published in the Business Line on July 13,‘following the conclusion of a meeting on the Afghan peace process held in Beijing on July 10-11’.
Thenegotiations ‘should produce a peace framework’ at the earliest the statement said reaffirming that it should be ‘Afghan-led and Afghan-owned’.
‘This framework should guarantee the orderly and responsible transition of the security situation and detail an agreement on a future inclusive political arrangement acceptable to all Afghans,’ it said.
The US, Russia, China and Pakistan asked ‘relevant parties to grasp the opportunity for peace’ and immediately start intra-Afghan negotiations involving Taliban, Afghan government and other Afghan stakeholders.
US stance on Afghanistan changing
Considering geographical proximity, strategic location and its involvement otherwise, Trump probably realized ignoring Pakistan will neither help him end the war nor will allow the withdrawal of troops.
Viable progress or some achievement inany of those two issues on the other hand, may guarantee Trump’s second stint at the White House in 2020. The reason being Afghanistan is a vital national security issue in US.
Will not withdrawal of foreign troops from landlocked Afghanistan bordering China, Iran, Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics around Russia, lead to a security vacuum – to be taken advantage of by groups like ISIS?
Will not involvement of Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan during peace process and ahead of foreign troops’ exithelp maintain security in Afghanistan and benefit the region immensely?
Donald Trump probably came to a conclusion that the solution of Afghan problem lied in its approach – and looking at it through a parochial prism may not deliver goods.
Ignoring the establishment, Trump has visibly shifted from US’ official perception that regardsPakistan as a problematic partner that needs to be fixed, instead of a country that needs to be engaged with?
Afghanistan: the deadliest of all global conflict
The war in Afghanistan is now the deadliest conflict in the world, causing more casualties than the fighting in Syria, Libya or Yemen, according to reports in the world media.
US President Donald Trump is keen to end the war, which, according to US officials, costs about $45bn (£34bn) annually. His indication to withdraw most or all of his 14,000 forces in the near future caught everyone by surprise, including the Taliban.
In January, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said more than 45,000 members of the country’s security forces had been killed since he became leader in late 2014. Over the same period ‘the number of international casualties is less than 72’, he said.
In February, the UN said civilian deaths reached a record high in 2018. It said more than 32,000 civilians had in total been killed in the past decade.Taliban fighters are also regularly killed in large numbers in airstrikes, night raids and ground fighting.
Outcome of July 22 meet
Media pundits and political analysts – having knowledge of bureaucratic operation in both Pakistan and US – seem to agree that the outcome of the visit will depend on how their personal chemistry develops during the meeting at the oval office.
They say, American policymakers and analysts acknowledge his appeal but dismiss his political significance. Khan’s sympathetic rhetoric toward Taliban that earned him the nickname Taliban Khan is noted with concern by them.
But both Khan and Trump are equally blunt in their political speech and fearless of the implications of it. They are impulsive and brash, former celebrities turned politicians.
Stillconsidered political outsiders, they have controversial world views. Withtheir populist anti-establishment rhetoric they came to power that resonated with a segment of the electorate that felt ignored by mainstream politicians.
North Korea, identified as the biggest foreign policy challenge for its growing nuclear ambition and missile arsenals for the US, in little less than three years Trump tenure do not appear to be as big a problem as it used to be.
But if Khan can appeal to Donald Trump, it might not matter that the lower ranks are not talking to each other.
Rankings in US visits
Prime Minister Imran Khan is going to the United States on an official working visit, which includes a meeting with the US president at the White House.
This will, however, not be a state visit as those are only for the head of state — presidents and monarchs — and not for the head of government, such as a prime minister.
State visits are very rare, only a handful in a US president’s four-year tenure.
The US State Department ranks the visits by foreign leaders into five categories: state visit, official visit, official working visit, working visit, and private visit.
State Visit: Highest ranking visit offered only to a chief of state at the invitation of the US president. This category guest is offered a room at Blair House for four days and three nights, the president’s official guest house, located within walking distance of the White House.
A state visit includes a meeting with the US president, a state dinner at the White House, a full honours arrival and departure ceremony on the south grounds of the White House, and a 21-gun salute.
Gifts may be exchanged and spouses can attend the ceremonies and dinners. Press availability and photo opportunities are plentiful.
Officialvisit:Offered to a head of government at the invitation of the US president. The guest stays at Blair House for four days and three nights and is entitled to a meeting with the US president.
The guest receives a full honours arrival and departure ceremony on the south grounds of the White House, a 19-gun salute and an official dinner at the White House. Gifts may be exchanged and spouses can attend the ceremonies and dinners.
Officialworking visit:extended by the US president either to a chief of state or the head of a government. Blair House, if available, is offered for two nights and three days, unlike an official visit when the US administration ensures its availability.
The guest is entitled to a meeting with the president, followed by a working luncheon at the White House.
A dinner or reception is possible, but not necessary. There is no ceremony upon arrival and departure. The press is usually granted some photo opportunities and occasionally there is a press conference. There is no gift exchange and spouses do not attend the luncheon.
Working Visit: extended to a chief of state or head of government at the invitation of the US president and includes a meeting with the president at the White House, but without a luncheon, dinner or formal press availability.
There is no gift exchange and spouses do not attend the event.
Private Visit:in this category a head of state ora head of government, foreign minister or any other government official arrives in the US without the invitation of the US president. The visitor may request a meeting with the president and if it is granted, it is often referred to as a ‘working session’.
Blair House is not offered and spouses do not attend the session. There is no gift exchange and no official press availability, although photo opportunities may be possible.
During a state or official visit, the visiting head of state or chief of government is often invited to address a joint meeting of the US Congress.
During a ‘state visit’, lamp posts on Pennsylvania Avenue are decorated with the visiting state’s flag, as well as that of the United States and the District of Columbia.
The flag of the visiting state is also displayed over the East Executive Avenue entrance to the Eisenhower Executive Building.
Gen Pervez Musharraf has had the highest number of meetings with US presidents: nine, including those during the UN General Assembly in New York. All his visits to Washington were either ‘official working’ or ‘working’ visits. He never got a state or an official visit.
Nawaz Sharif had six meetings with US presidents, including three official working visits and one working visit.
Sharif never had an official visit whileBenazir Bhutto made an official visit and an official working visit.

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