According to the newspaper report, which was based on a memorandum released by the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., Washington asked then-Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to use his influence with the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan to prevent an al-Qaida attack.
Clinton telephoned Sharif from Oval Office on Dec. 18, 1998, and asked for his help after intelligence sources reported the possibility of an imminent al-Qaida attack.
“I need your personal help,” Clinton had told Sharif during their six-minute telephone conversation that day.
“I understand your anxiety and your position, Mr. President,” Sharif replied. “We will do everything we can, I assure you.”
Sharif vowed to send an emissary to Afghanistan the following day to tell Taliban leaders that “this will not be in their interest and it will serve no purpose, that it will invite retaliation and a world reaction.”
“I will do whatever I can, I can assure you of that, but you must understand they are very stubborn and uncooperative,” Sharif added.
In response, Clinton said it was one thing for the Taliban to refuse to turn bin Laden over to U.S. custody. But permitting him to “conduct operations” would be a far more serious problem, the president said.
The Times of India noted that on Wednesday —
almost 15 years after Clinton made that call —
President Barack Obama will meet Sharif in the White House in an effort to get his help in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.
This time, Washington seeks to ensure security after U.S. and NATO forces depart Afghanistan next year.
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