What Does it Mean for US to Involve Pakistan Army Chief During Donald Trump-Imran Khan Meet?

What Does it Mean for US to Involve Pakistan Army Chief During Donald Trump-Imran Khan Meet?

Only last year US President Donald Trump made his displeasure known with Pakistan quite publically. An angry tweet greeted Islamabad last New Year with Trump accusing Pakistan of “lies and deceit”.

A year and a half later, Trump will be meeting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in the White House at 12 noon EST today for a meeting followed by working lunch.

There are several reports on who has facilitated this meeting, ranging from the names of South Carolina senator to the Saudi Crown Prince doing the rounds. However, the fact is that with the Afghan Peace Process in a critical phase and American elections due next year, analysts believe this meeting is significant for President Trump and his desire to pull out American troops from the war-ravaged country.

This morning, the public relations wing of the Pakistan Army DG, ISPR, tweeted to officially confirm that its chief, General Qamar Bajwa, will be present during the meeting.

Strategic analyst Ambassador KC Singh explains the reason, saying, “The Pakistani Army Chief has to deliver on Taliban cooperation and shutting down terror inc. He is like a co-signatory to assurances given to the US.”

Former Ambassador to Canada, Vishnu Prakash, said, “Pretences, if any, on who calls the shots in Pakistan have been dropped.” Defence analyst Brahma Chellany said, “Pakistan is a classic example of a praetorian state where the military dominates the core political institutions and processes and calls the shots in strategic policies.” Hence, according to him, it makes sense from the US perspective to involve the army chief.

Director of Society for Policy Studies, Commodore (R) Uday Bhaskar, said with reports suggesting that ISI chief Faiz Hameed also there, the US could suggest that there could be talks around the release of Shakil Afridi, the physician who helped the CIA track Osama bin Laden in Abottabad.

He said Congressional debates suggest Americans feel the US has let down a man who helped them and if Trump can secure his release, it will be “a case of Trump doing what Obama couldn’t do,” in the run-up to the US Presidential elections.

New Delhi will certainly be watching this meeting keenly for the counter-terror commitments that its neighbouring country makes. Pakistan is likely to project Hafiz Saeed’s arrest as a major step taken in the recent past, but Prakash said that while America in its pressing desire to withdraw troops from Afghanistan may be willing to give Pakistan some concession, it should remain wary of the latter’s ability to spin a yarn.