‘Falcon Talon III’: USAF sends fighter jets to Pakistan for joint exercises
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The joint exercises come only a day after senior US Senator Lindsey Graham urged President Donald Trump to meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, as intense contacts between the two countries continue over negotiations to end the 17-year war with the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Graham spoke to reporters in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Sunday, capping off days of meetings that saw the top US envoy on Afghan reconciliation and its commander of military forces in the region also visit the South Asian country.
"I've seen things change here and all in a positive direction," said Graham, a senior member of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee who has visited Pakistan dozens of times in recent years.
Khan, who came to power after a general election last year, has long stated his support for a peace agreement in Afghanistan to end hostilities there.
Trump would be "far more enthusiastic about the region than he is today" if he met Khan, said Graham, who held talks with the prime minister earlier on Sunday.
"With Prime Minister Khan we have a unique opportunity to change our relationship," he said.
The relationship, he said, was previously "transactional", but should be replaced with a "strategic partnership".
US Senator Lindsey Graham praises PM Imran's role ... 12:02 AM | 21 Jan, 2019
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Relations between erstwhile allies Pakistan and the United States have been tense since Trump cut more than $1bn in US security assistance to the country last year, accusing the government of duplicity in its dealings with Afghanistan.
Afghan and US officials have long accused Pakistan of offering sanctuary and support to elements of the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network armed groups, which have been fighting US-led NATO forces in neighbouring Afghanistan since 2001.
Pakistan denies the charges, although in recent months the Foreign Office has, in several statements, acknowledged the country's role as a "facilitator" in the process.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad held meetings with Pakistan 's foreign minister and army chief during a two-day visit on Thursday and Friday, with both sides pledging to continue the dialogue process and to facilitate talks with the Afghan Taliban.
The US has held several rounds of talks with Afghan Taliban representatives in the Qatari capital Doha and in the United Arab Emirates, although negotiations appear to have hit an impasse when last week the Taliban threatened to call off discussions.
Also on Sunday, US CENTCOM chief General Joseph Votel held talks with Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, with the Afghan peace process high on the agenda, an Inter Services Public Relations statement said.
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