US senator Graham says he’ll ask Trump to meet Pakistan, Afghan leaders

Updated January 20, 2019

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“I think they will hit it off” if they meet as they have “similar personalities”, says US senator of Trump and PM Khan. — File photo
“I think they will hit it off” if they meet as they have “similar personalities”, says US senator of Trump and PM Khan. — File photo

US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday that he will urge President Donald Trump to meet with the leadership of Pakistan and Afghanistan so that they can devise a plan to end Afghanistan’s 17-year war, the US’s longest military engagement.

Graham spoke at a news conference in Islamabad after meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has previously faced criticism for suggesting peace talks should include the Taliban.

“I think they will hit it off” if they meet as they have “similar personalities,” said Graham of the proposed meeting between Trump and Khan.

The senator praised Prime Minister Khan's vision to advocate for a political solution to the Afghan conflict.

Senator Lindsey Graham praised Prime Minister Imran Khan's vision to advocate for a political solution to the Afghan conflict. — Photo courtesy: PM Office
Senator Lindsey Graham praised Prime Minister Imran Khan's vision to advocate for a political solution to the Afghan conflict. — Photo courtesy: PM Office

The South Carolina Republican, who is close to President Donald Trump, conveyed his appreciation for Pakistan's positive role in the ongoing efforts to find a political settlement in Afghanistan, a press release issued by the Prime Minister's Office said.

Graham is one of the staunchest advocates of US military presence in Syria and Afghanistan.

During the meeting, the two discussed bilateral ties and reviewed the regional security situation as Graham lauded Khan's vision to improve the economy, eliminate corruption and create jobs for Pakistanis. The senator said that the premier's efforts to normalise relations with neighbouring countries were "noteworthy".

Talking to the senator, Prime Minister Khan reiterated the government's commitment to continue working with the US and other regional stakeholders to find a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

He highlighted the need for normalising relations with all neighbouring countries to "unleash the potential of regional cooperation".

The premier added that his economic team was constantly striving to evolve business-friendly policies for potential investors which could be benefitted by American companies.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met with US Senator Lindsey Graham in Islamabad on Sunday. — Photo courtesy Dr Mohammad Faisal Twitter
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met with US Senator Lindsey Graham in Islamabad on Sunday. — Photo courtesy Dr Mohammad Faisal Twitter

The two sides agreed to deepen bilateral economic ties, particularly in relation to trade and investment cooperation.

The Republican also called on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier today. During the meeting, the two exchanged views on issues relating to bilateral cooperation, the situation in Afghanistan, as well as regional and international issues, Radio Pakistan reported.

Qureshi and Graham also reviewed various aspects of the bilateral relationship to increase cooperation in the economic and trade sectors, the report said.

Graham's visit to Islamabad comes shortly after US Spe­cial Envoy for Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad's visit to Pakistan during which he met Prime Minister Khan, Foreign Minister Qureshi as well as Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Khalilzad had said he awaited “concrete progress” on Afghan peace talks. His visit to Pakistan took place against the backdrop of a deadlock in talks between the US and Taliban over the initiation of a reconciliation process. The impasse has been caused by the Taliban’s refusal to talk to the Afghan government.

The US had initiated direct contacts with the Taliban in July last year, but the recent most meeting in Abu Dhabi last month was facilitated by Pakistan after President Trump requested Prime Minister Khan to help in the reconciliation process. Washington has, therefore, ramped up pressure on Islamabad to play its role in overcoming the gridlock and moving towards an intra-Afghan dialogue.