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Trump Meets With Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan


Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, is in town here in D.C. this week, his first visit to Washington since he was elected a year ago, which would also make it his first since he and President Trump swapped insults on Twitter with Trump accusing Pakistan's leaders of lies and deceit and Khan accusing the U.S. president of making Pakistan a scapegoat for America's failures in Afghanistan. All of which made for an interesting face-to-face talk at the White House on this trip. We're going to bring in NPR's Jackie Northam, who has been following the Pakistani prime minister's movements as he makes his way across Washington. And she's here now.

Hey, Jackie.


KELLY: So I want to get to talks with President Trump and the way forward for the war in Afghanistan, which was the focus of those talks, but can we just start with the way that Imran Khan arrived in Washington? He made this whole social media splash when he flew in on a commercial flight.

NORTHAM: Yeah, that's right. Khan arrived at Dulles Airport. It was very low-key and, you know, since then, he's been doing some of his traveling around D.C. by its subway system. So...

KELLY: And the splash was also he got on one of the dreaded people movers at Dulles. There was no red carpet rolled out or limousine waiting for him. No.

NORTHAM: No, not at all. There was nothing like that. You know, Khan is very popular here in the U.S. with Pakistan's expatriate community. And he spoke to a sold-out crowd at a sports arena in Washington. While he's here, Khan will be seeing the World Bank. He'll be seeing the IMF, which just gave Pakistan a $6 billion loan to help with its troubled economy. But, Mary Louise, Khan's key meeting was Monday, and that was with President Trump. And, you know, it was seen as a step forward to repairing a really rather tattered relationship between the two countries.

KELLY: Yes, those Twitter barbs that I referred to. So they held a press conference afterward, touched on a whole range of things - trade, improving relations - but the focus, as we mentioned, was bringing an end to the war in Afghanistan and the role that Pakistan might play in that. What did President Trump say he wants Pakistan to do?

NORTHAM: Well, it was a remarkable press conference to begin with. And part of it was Trump made it pretty clear that he wants Pakistan's help on ending the war in Afghanistan. Administration officials believe Pakistan has influence with the Taliban and could convince the militant group to agree to a cease-fire. Trump said he would prefer negotiations over a military solution. And listen to what he had to say.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have plans on Afghanistan that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth. It would be gone. It would be over in - literally in 10 days. And I don't want to do that. I don't want to go that route.

KELLY: I mean, that's incredible tape. What was the response to that?

NORTHAM: Well, Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani, said he wanted, quote-unquote, "clarification" and he added that foreign heads of states cannot determine the fate of Afghanistan.

KELLY: And what did Imran Khan say about what Pakistan can do to help end the war?

NORTHAM: Right. Well, Khan long advocated for a political solution for the conflict in Afghanistan. And he complimented Trump for trying to force a settlement. But frankly, Mary Louise, Khan did little talking during this press conference, and there were some pretty awkward moments as well. At one point, Trump waded into the Pakistan-India relationship, and these two countries have fought wars over Kashmir. Trump said yesterday that India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, asked him if he would help mediate the Kashmir dispute. And, you know, shortly after that, India came out with a very stern statement saying it made no such request to President Trump and that any discussions on Kashmir would be done between Pakistan and India alone.

KELLY: All right. We shall leave it there. NPR's Jackie Northam.

Thanks, Jackie.

NORTHAM: Thanks very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.
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