Â Associated Press
ISLAMABAD - Pakistanâ€™s newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Islamabad on Wednesday, saying he was â€śoptimisticâ€ť he could reset the relationship with Washington after the U.S. suspended aid over the countryâ€™s alleged failure to combat militants.
â€śYou know Iâ€™m a born optimist,â€ť said Khan, a former star cricket player who was sworn in last month. â€śA sportsman always is an optimist. He steps on the field and he thinks heâ€™s going to win.â€ť
Pompeo spent just four hours in Pakistan, his first visit to the country. At the airport before leaving for neighboring India, he said he was â€śhopefulâ€ť that a foundation had been laid to move forward.
â€śWeâ€™ve still got a long way to go, lots more discussion to be had,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s time for us to begin to deliver on our joint commitment... Weâ€™ve had lots of times where weâ€™ve talked and made agreements, but we havenâ€™t been able to actually execute those.â€ť
Pompeo held meetings with Khan, Pakistanâ€™s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the powerful Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.
â€śWe talked about their new government, the opportunity to reset the relationship between our two countries across a broad spectrum, economic, business, commercial,â€ť Pompeo said.
He said they also discussed â€śthe work that we all know that we need to do to try to develop a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan that benefits certainly Afghanistan, but also the United States and Pakistan.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m hopeful that the foundation that we laid today will set the conditions for continued success as we start to move forward,â€ť he said on the tarmac before leaving.
The United States last weekend canceled a $300 million Coalition Support Fund payment to Pakistan after long complaining that it was not doing enough to combat the Taliban and other militants who attack Afghan and U.S. forces across the porous border.
Pakistan has rejected those allegations, saying it has played a key role in the U.S.-led campaign against extremists that began after the 9/11 attacks.
â€śIn all of his meetings, Secretary Pompeo emphasized the important role Pakistan could play in bringing about a negotiated peace in Afghanistan, and conveyed the need for Pakistan to take sustained and decisive measures against terrorists and militants threatening regional peace and stability,â€ť the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said in a statement issued after Pompeoâ€™s departure.
On the plane to Pakistan, Pompeo announced his appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad, a veteran diplomat who is unpopular in Pakistan, as the new U.S. special adviser on Afghan reconciliation, which could further complicate relations with Islamabad.
Khalilzad â€śhas been very critical of Pakistan in the past and his appointment will not help move things forward,â€ť said Zahid Hussain, a defense analyst and the author of two books on militancy in the region.