WASHINGTON, DC -- Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to meet with Afghan Taliban leaders upon his return home and encourage them to join peace talks with the Afghan government.
Khan spoke Tuesday (July 23) at the US Institute for Peace in Washington, DC, on his first official visit to the United States, where President Donald Trump hosted him at the White House a day earlier.
Khan said he had been contacted by the Afghan Taliban "a few months back" after his election in July 2018 but did not take a meeting at that time because Kabul opposed it.
The militants reached out to him "because I always maintained there was no military solution" to the war in Afghanistan, he said.
"So because of that, I had a certain amount of credibility amongst them," Khan said.
After meeting with Trump and speaking with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Khan said, "Now I will meet the Taliban and I will try my best to get them to talk to the Afghan government."
Peace talks should lead to "an inclusive [Afghan] election where the Taliban … also participate", he emphasised.
Another round of talks begins
Khan's comments came as US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad left for another round of peace negotiations in Kabul and Doha, Qatar.
Khalilzad has had several meetings with the Taliban over the past year, the most recent being on July 9 in Doha.
So far, the major hurdle has been the Taliban's refusal to negotiate directly with the Afghan government.
"It's not going to be easy because there's no centralised command; it's a devolved movement," Khan said about the insurgent group.
"But we feel that if we all work together, we feel this is the best chance of there to be peace in Afghanistan."
"We should not ever interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan," Khan said. "Let the Afghans decide what they want, what sort of government they want, and we should facilitate the peace process."
"Now, we're all on the same page. And fortunately, now the United States is on the same page too," he said.