WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump has asked for Pakistan's help over faltering Afghan peace talks in a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, in which he made clear that Islamabad's assistance was "fundamental" to the health of the two countries' strained ties, a senior Trump administration official said.
Mr Trump wants to end the 17-year-old conflict between Afghan security forces and the Taleban, who are fighting to drive out international forces and re-establish their version of strict Islamic law after their 2001 ouster.
The US administration official, who did not want to be identified, said on Monday that Mr Trump requested "Pakistan's full support" for the American effort to advance the Afghan peace process and for US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad's trip to the region.
Mr Trump also said in the letter to Mr Khan that he "recognises that Pakistan has the ability to deny the Taleban sanctuary on its territory", the official said.
"The letter also makes clear that Pakistan's assistance with the Afghan peace process is fundamental to building an enduring US-Pakistan partnership," the official added.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry had a different take on the letter, saying Mr Trump asked for its "support and facilitation" in negotiating an end to the war, and offered to renew bilateral ties.
Officially allies in fighting terrorism, Pakistan and the United States have a complicated relationship, bound by Washington's dependence on Pakistan to supply its troops in Afghanistan, where the US still has 14,000 troops, but plagued by accusations that Islamabad is playing a double game.
US officials have long been pushing Pakistan to lean on Taleban leaders, who Washington says are based inside Pakistan, to bring them to the negotiating table.
Pakistani officials deny offering safe havens to the Afghan Taleban and say Islamabad's influence over the militant group has waned over the years.
Mr Trump appointed Afghan-born US diplomat Khalilzad as special envoy tasked with pushing through peace talks. Mr Khalilzad said last month he hoped a deal would be reached by April next year.
But Afghan Taleban militants insisted they had not accepted any deadline and said a three-day meeting in Qatar between their leaders and Mr Khalilzad ended with no agreement.
Mr Khalilzad on Sunday began an eight-country tour, including Pakistan, Russia and Qatar, to promote peace and convince the Taleban to join negotiations.
US Defence Secretary James Mattis said on Monday that the war in Afghanistan had gone on for long enough.
"We are looking for every responsible nation to support peace in the subcontinent and across this war in Afghanistan," Mr Mattis told reporters. "It is time for everyone to get on board."
Mr Trump has been clear that he wants to bring home US troops still in Afghanistan.