Donald Trump could make his first visit to South Asia as president as early as this September. But the plan seems to hinge on whether his envoy for Afghan peace, Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad, can secure an agreement with the Afghan Taliban in the coming weeks.
Trump, in response to a question posed by a Pakistani journalist while hosting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Oval Office last month, had already shown a keen interest in visiting Pakistan.
“Well, I can’t say that yet because, so far, he [Imran Khan] has not extended me an invitation [to visit Pakistan],” Trump shared while laughing and added, “And after today’s meeting, maybe he won’t. But I have a feeling he might. Yes, I’d love to go to Pakistan at the right time.”
Trump was extended an invitation by Khan, which he accepted, according to Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Now, the Pakistani English-language daily Dawn reports that Trump could visit the region this September, making stops in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.
Recent developments between the United States and Pakistan indicate that the relations between the two countries may be on an upward trajectory. Trump wants to withdraw forces in Afghanistan by signing a peace treaty with the Taliban, thus ending the 18-year-long war. Pakistan is essential to getting the Taliban to agree to a political settlement, which Trump recognizes.
“Pakistan’s going to help us out to extricate ourselves,” Trump said at the Oval Office meeting with Khan last month. “We’re like policemen. We’re not fighting a war. If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week. But I don’t want to kill 10 million people. Afghanistan could be wiped off the face of the Earth. I don’t want to go that route.”
If Trump does indeed visit both countries, he will be the sixth U.S president to visit Pakistan and the seventh to visit Afghanistan.