The United States has put pressure on Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is all set to visit Washington next week, to take “irreversible action” against terrorist and militant groups, and to “facilitate peace talks” with the Taliban for intra-Afghan dialogue, according to the White House.

During a meeting, diplomats said that “the US officials hope that US President Donald Trump can persuade Pakistan to press the Taliban to agree on a ceasefire and hold direct talks with the Afghan government”.

This effort comes after Donald Trump had made a decision last year for the US to hold its first sustained talks with the Taliban. It is an approach Pakistani officials have advocated for years and to them, a vindication of their view that the insurgents cannot be defeated militarily and that a political resolution to the conflict is needed.

But the militant group continues to attack Afghan and US targets and is now more powerful than any time since the US-led invasion in 2001, controlling or contesting at least half the country.

Pakistan has supported the Taliban since the mid-1990s as the best way to keep its rival India from exercising influence in Afghanistan, a relationship that has given Islamabad more leverage than any other country over the jihadist movement.

Earlier in June this year, Alice Wells, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs said, “We recognize that Pakistan has taken steps to encourage Taliban participation in peace negotiations, which has been important to the progress we have made thus far”.

That diplomatic opening has led to months of painstaking negotiations between the US and the Taliban, with Washington aiming to conclude a deal by September. Exiting Afghanistan, where the US has thousands of troops, would give Trump a potential foreign-policy victory ahead of his 2020 re-election bid.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, said on Tuesday, “The convergence of Pakistan’s and the US policy on Afghanistan has rekindled hope for resolution of the protracted Afghan conflict”.

On Friday, a US Congressional report stated that the security assistance to Pakistan will remain suspended pending “decisive and irreversible” on action against terrorist groups ahead of Imran Khan’s visit to the United States.

At the direction of Trump, the government had suspended all its security assistance to Pakistan in January 2018.

“Pakistan is a haven for numerous Islamist extremist and terrorist groups, and successive Pakistani governments are widely believed to have tolerated and even supported some of these as proxies in Islamabad’s historical conflicts with its neighbours,” the independent Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in its latest report.

Last year in November, Donald Trump tweeted that Pakistan receives billions of dollars in U.S. aid but the country’s leaders “do nothing for us.”

In response to Trump, Imran Khan said, “Pak has suffered enough fighting US’s war. Now we will do what is best for our people & our interests.”

Imran Khan, the 66-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, is scheduled to meet Donald Trump at his Oval Office next Monday, the first by a Pakistani leader in nearly four years, the last one being that of Nawaz Sharif in October 2015.

(With PTI inputs)