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In Islamabad, U.S. Defense Chief Looks To Bolster Counterterrorism Fight


U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (file photo)
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (file photo)

During a visit to Islamabad, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has reiterated a call on Pakistani leaders to "redouble" efforts to go after militants and terrorists operating within the country, the Pentagon says.

Mattis met on December 4 with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and other top officials amid U.S. complaints that Pakistan is not doing enough to thwart insurgent groups within its borders. Islamabad denies that.

After the meetings, the U.S. Defense Department issued a statement saying Mattis "recognized Pakistan's sacrifices in the war on terrorism."

The defense secretary also "emphasized the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the United States and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that brings stability and security to the region," it added.

Meanwhile, Abbasi's office quoted the prime minister as assuring Mattis of Pakistan's cooperation in the fight against terrorism, saying that "no country benefits more from peace and security in Afghanistan."

"Both Pakistan and the United States have common stakes in securing peace and security in Afghanistan for the long-term stability of the border region," a statement quoted Abbasi as telling Mattis.

Ahead of his arrival in Islamabad, Mattis said on December 3: "We have heard from Pakistan leaders that they do not support terrorism. So I expect to see that sort of action reflected in their policies."

However, he said he wanted to work with the Pakistanis and not to exert pressure on the country’s leaders in the counterterrorism fight.

"That's not the way I deal with issues. I believe that we work hard on finding the common ground and then we work together," he said.

Washington in the past has complained about what it sees as Pakistani efforts to provide "safe havens" for Taliban militants who stage attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.

U.S. officials say militants have crossed the mountainous and ill-defined Pakistani border to attack U.S., Afghan, and allied forces in Afghanistan.

The officials say insurgents then return to the safe havens in Pakistan, aided by the ISI, Islamabad's intelligence agency. Pakistan has denied the allegation.

U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Islamabad of harboring "agents of chaos" and vowed to get tough with Pakistan unless it changes its behavior.

Mattis told reporters in Kuwait before his departure to Pakistan that he will be "reinforcing President Trump's call for action against terrorist safe havens."

U.S. General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, expressed disappointment last week about the lack of progress, saying there had been no change in Pakistan's support for militant networks.

The United States in August said it would hold up $255 million in military assistance for Pakistan until it cracks down on the extremists threatening Afghanistan.

Islamabad is the final stop of Mattis's trip after stops in Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait.

With reporting by AP, Dawn, VOA, The Hindu, and Geo News

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