In an exclusive interview, Pakistani Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan also said the U.S. will continue to wield influence in Kabul through a critical economic support role after American troops depart under a deal the Trump administration reached with the Taliban back in February.
“The supporters of the process as well as the parties involved will have to figure out how they can best help the Afghans transition from a war-centered economy to a normal economy,” Ambassador Khan told The Washington Times.
“I think that’s where the United States will have an important role to play,” he said in a wide-ranging discussion, during which he also weighed in Pakistan’s tensions with India and on whether it will be easier for Islamabad to deal with Mr. Trump in a second term or a potential Joseph R. Biden administration next year.
Ambassador Khan’s remarks on Afghanistan, which neighbors Pakistan to the north and east, were notably optimistic. He cited Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent decision to order the release of remaining Taliban prisoners held by the U.S.-backed government in Kabul as a major reason to be hopeful.
“If you had asked me a year ago, I probably would not have been as optimistic as I am now,” the ambassador said, adding that the prisoner release plan “bodes well” for the prospect of starting so-called intra-Afghan talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban.
Such talks, which U.S. officials say are essential to peacefully determining what Afghanistan’s future government will look like once U.S. forces leave, have so far struggled to gain steam.