Pakistan must enhance efforts to eliminate terror: US

ISLAMABAD: The United States, while acknowledging the sacrifices of Pakistan, has underscored the importance of continuing and enhancing cooperation and efforts from Pakistan for the common objective of eliminating terrorism from the region.

The two countries agreed that they had common stakes in securing peace and security in Afghanistan for the long-term stability of the broader region. It transpired in a meeting between visiting US Secretary of Defense General James Mattis and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi here on Monday.

Mattis emphasised that in view of his long association with Pakistan, he was keenly aware of the sacrifices rendered and the lives lost in Pakistan’s fight against terrorism and extremism.

Prime Minister Abbasi received Mattis at the Prime Minister's House. Mattis arrived earlier in the day as the two countries struggle to find a common ground on the Afghan endgame and the fight against terrorism.

The general’s reported tone lacked the harshness considered to be hallmark of the visiting US dignitaries. On his maiden visit to Pakistan as secretary of defense, Mattis was accompanied by senior officials from the Department of Defense and the US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale. The prime minister was assisted by federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal, Khurram Dastgir, Khawaja Asif, NSA General Nasser Khan Janjua, Miftah Ismail and Secretary to PM Fawad Hasan Fawad, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and DG ISI Lieutenant General Naveed Mukhtar and other DG ISI Lieutenant General Naveed Mukhtar and other senior officials. The two sides are engaged in discussion about the situation in Afghanistan and how the two countries could cooperate to bring some semblance of normalcy in the region. The visit has come as the US pushes Islamabad to do more to combat insurgents who allegedly use bases in the country’s tribal belt.

En route to Pakistan, Mattis stated that he would not use pressure as a tactic and insisted he would do “some listening”. When asked if he would “prod” Islamabad to take more action, he replied: “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, so that’s the approach I want to take.”

Mattis stated in the Prime Minister House where the meeting took place that the purpose of his visit was to find common ground in order to create a positive, consistent and long-term relationship with Pakistan. Recalling the longstanding relationship with the United States, the Prime Minister underlined the need for a broad based engagement to strengthen partnership and enhance cooperation between the two countries. Articulating Pakistan’s perspective, the prime minister noted that no other country benefits more from peace and stability in Afghanistan than Pakistan. He agreed with Secretary Mattis that both Pakistan and the US have common stakes in securing peace and security in Afghanistan for the long-term stability of the broader region. The prime minister also appreciated the US resolve not to allow the use of Afghan soil against Pakistan. Sharing highlights of the recent counter terrorism operations to improve the law and order situation, the prime minister noted that Pakistan, in its national interest, would continue to conduct intelligence based operations all over the country to consolidate the gains achieved in the last four years. The premier reiterated that there are no safe heavens in Pakistan and the entire nation was committed to its resolve on eradicating terrorism once and for all in all its forms and manifestations.

Mattis landed at the air force base in Rawalpindi and headed straight to the US embassy. Upon his arrival, he was received by officials from the Defence Ministry, Foreign Ministry, and the US embassy. Mattis arrived in Islamabad a day after CIA Director Mike Pompeo warned Islamabad that if it does not eliminate the alleged safe havens inside its territory, the United States will do “everything we can” to destroy the so-called ‘safe havens'. "The safe haven inside of Pakistan has worked to the detriment of our capacity to do what we needed to do in Afghanistan," Pompeo had said. He had then explained how the Trump administration would deal with the situation if Pakistan turned down Washington’s request to destroy safe havens.

“In the absence of the Pakistanis achieving that, we are going to do everything we can to make sure that the safe havens exist no longer,” he had said. In October, Mattis warned that the United States was willing to work “one more time” with Pakistan before taking “whatever steps are necessary” to address its alleged support for militants.

Muhammad Anis adds: General James Mattis during a meeting with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters assured that US is ready to address Pakistan’s concerns, saying his aim was not to make demands but find common ground to work together.

“The US is ready to play its role in addressing Pakistan's legitimate concerns,” Mattis said. The ISPR said the meeting focused on regional security with particular emphasis on Afghanistan as well as other matters of mutual interest.

General Bajwa highlighted Pakistan's concerns emanating from Indian use of Afghan soil and the existence of terrorist safe havens across the border in Afghanistan. “He reiterated Pakistan's support to peace and stability in the region and highlighted Pakistan's concerns emanating from Indian use of Afghan soil, the necessity and right of Afghan refugees for a respectable and early repatriation and the existence of terrorist safe havens across the border in Afghanistan,” the ISPR said.

The COAS acknowledged history of US engagements with Pakistan especially the ongoing efforts for continuing the positivity for peace in the region. He said that Pakistan has done much more than its due share despite capacity constraints but shall remain committed for peace as a responsible member of international community.

General Mattis expressed his respect for Pakistan armed forces and the effective operations undertaken against terrorists. He highlighted concern that a few elements continue to use Pakistan's territory to further their terrorist agenda in Afghanistan.

The COAS appreciated the dignitary's understanding of the underlying issues and said that Pakistan does not require anything from US but understanding. “We have eliminated safe havens from Pakistan's soil but are prepared to look into the possibility of miscreants exploiting Pakistan's hospitality to the Afghan refugees to the detriment of our Afghan brothers,” he said. Both agreed to work towards specific and sustained actions on each other's concerns.






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