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James Mattis arrives in Pakistan to hold meetings with civil, military leadership

James Mattis arrives in Pakistan to hold meetings with civil, military leadership

US defence secretary to discuss regional security, peace, bilateral issues and the Afghan conflict

United States Secretary of Defence James Mattis arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a day-long visit. He was received by senior Pakistani officials and US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale at Nur Khan Airbase, Chaklala.

On Monday, James Mattis held a high-level meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, discussing regional security, peace, Afghan conflict and other bilateral issues.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, National Security Adviser Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua, ISI Director General Lieutenant General Naveed Mukhtar, Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir and other officials were present in the meeting.

Secretary Mattis recognized Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism. The Secretary 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.  The Secretary reiterated that Pakistan must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country.

James Mattis expressed the optimism that the two countries could find ways to work together in the face of mutual enemies.

“My goal is to find common ground.  We know we have some common ground,” the Secretary said while talking to reporters Sunday en route to Pakistan from Jordan.

“They have lost hundreds, thousands of their troops killed and wounded by terrorists. They have lost hundreds, thousands of their innocent people murdered and wounded by terrorists, so we know that there is common ground,” the Secretary added.

“There is common ground between Afghanistan and Pakistan, because there are terrorist groups that try to move back and forth, that do move back and forth in order to live in one and attack in the other, that sort of thing.”

US defence secretary James Mattis said that his visit to Pakistan was part of an effort to set the conditions for future collaboration that would lead to denial of safe havens for any terrorist group that would attack anyone in the region.

James Mattis embarked on a five-day trip to Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, and Kuwait. He is also scheduled to meet Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa to discuss Washington’s latest strategy for South Asia.

The United States has for a decade accused Pakistan of sheltering or having ties to terrorists, such as the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban, which attack NATO coalition forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Pakistan, however, rejects the accusation, saying Washington is scapegoating Pakistan for its own failures in Afghanistan, where the United States remains in a stalemate after 16 years of war.

Earlier, Mattis had said in October 2017 that the US would try “one more time” to work with Pakistan in Afghanistan before President Donald Trump would turn to options to address Islamabad’s alleged support for militant groups.

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