US Senator Lindsey Graham speaks at the US embassy in Islamabad on January 20. Photo: AFP

Leading US Senator Lindsey Graham pledged on Sunday to attempt to persuade President Donald Trump to meet Imran Khan to boost Washington’s Afghanistan peace efforts, calling the Pakistani prime minister an “agent of change.”

The Republican lawmaker, who was once a vociferous critic of Trump but has since become his most influential ally, made the comments in Islamabad after meeting with the Pakistani leader, saying Khan was a “new partner” who could potentially help achieve a peace deal in Afghanistan.

“I’m going to urge him [Trump] to meet with the prime minister as soon as practical,” Graham told reporters, saying he believed Khan and Trump would “hit it off” because they have “similar personalities.”

He added, “Prime Minister Khan is the agent of change that I’ve been looking for.”

Relations between Washington and Islamabad have deteriorated recently, with American officials repeatedly accusing Islamabad of turning a blind eye to or even collaborating with the Afghan Taliban, which launch attacks in Afghanistan from alleged safe havens along the border between the two countries.

Trump has repeatedly criticized  Pakistan’s alleged duplicity, saying late last year that the government does not do “a damn thing” for America.

Khan has been equally critical of the US president, saying before 2018’s election in Pakistan that meeting with Trump would be a “bitter pill” to swallow.

The US lawmaker’s trip to Pakistan comes as American officials have held several rounds of talks with Taliban representatives.

Graham said a meeting between the two leaders was vital to negotiating a deal in Afghanistan.

“They actually need to meet and come up with an agenda that will push a resolution to the war in Afghanistan,” the senator added.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse

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