Mattis urges Pakistan to “redouble” efforts against Islamist militants



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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, on his first visit to Pakistan in that role, called on Monday his top military and civilian officials to "redouble" efforts to prevent Islamist militants from using the country as a refuge. and a launch pad for attacks on Afghanistan and elsewhere.

But Mattis seemed to tone down the sharp language he has used in congressional hearings and other scenarios to accuse Pakistan of harboring Afghan Taliban fighters. Instead, he adopted a softer and more diplomatic approach to find "common ground".

Statements by the office of the Pakistani prime minister and the Pentagon on Monday night, after Mattis left the country, described his interactions with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Pakistan's defense minister and his military commanders and of intelligence in positive and soft terms.

The US embbady said it praised Pakistan's "sacrifices in the war on terrorism" while insisting that it "must redouble its efforts to confront the militants within its borders."

Abbasi was even more optimistic, saying in a statement that both countries share a commitment to the war on terrorism and affirming that "there are no safe havens" for militants in Pakistan. He emphasized Mattis' comments about continuing the long-term relationship between the former allies of the Cold War and the "deepening of cooperation" with the common goal of "eliminating terrorism from the region."

[The U.S. says Pakistan must work with Afghanistan on terrorism. It won’t be easy.]

There was no public mention of either side of repeated threats from President Trump and other senior US officials that Washington will crack down on Pakistan if it does not stop protecting the militants. Punitive measures could include significant cuts in military and economic aid, retracting Pakistan's status as an "important non-NATO ally" and declaring it to be a sponsoring state of terrorism.

Pakistani army officials said they told Mattis that "Pakistan has done much more than it should despite the capacity constraints." They said that Mattis told them that their goal was "not to make demands". In a statement, officials said that the US defense chief expressed concern that "a few elements" use Pakistani territory to promote terrorism in Afghanistan, and said they are "prepared to see the possibility" that such "evil "may be protecting themselves in Afghan refugee communities.

But other US officials have continued to claim that Pakistan has not taken sufficient action, despite repeated meetings with US military officials. UU And from the visit of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson a month ago.

[Trump’s new Afghanistan policy has Pakistan angry and alarmed]

"We have been very direct and clear with the Pakistanis … We have not yet seen those changes implemented," said General John Nicholson Jr., the top US commander. in Afghanistan, at a press conference in Kabul last week. But he also said that the United States is "hoping to work together with the Pakistanis" to eliminate cross-border terrorism and did not mention any sanctions.

In Washington, on Saturday, CIA director Mike Pompeo said the United States will do "everything possible to ensure there are no longer safe havens" if Pakistan does not do so. One of the measures would be an expansion of US drones. UU Attacking more deeply in the heart of Pakistan. Such a measure would alarm the population and provoke the government, which has cooperated in silence with the US drone attacks. UU In tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

The Afghan authorities have repeatedly accused Pakistan of allowing the Taliban and other militant groups, especially the Haqqani network, to take refuge and attack from the sanctuaries on their side of the border. They also accuse the Pakistani army and its intelligence services of organizing attacks in Kabul and other parts of the country. Pakistan has always denied the accusations.

[Once-fringe Islamist radicals are making their way into Pakistani politics]

Despite the cordiality of Monday's meetings, previous threats from the Trump administration were in the minds of Pakistani officials and badysts in the capital when Mattis arrived at the midday to stop briefly before flying to Kuwait. The United States demands that Pakistan "do more" angered many Pakistanis, who insist that Washington must press Afghanistan to stop hosting militants on its 1,800-mile border side.

Some commentators suggested that a huge bomb fell in August on American warplanes across the border in eastern Afghanistan, which apparently had no immediate purpose and fell on an old and abandoned militant hideout in the mountains actually intended to be a warning for Pakistan.

Syed Talat Hussain, a Pakistani media badyst for a long time, wrote on Monday that the Trump administration has decided to "put Islamabad to its knees" and that it is only "fulfilling the requirements of commitment" with educated visits like Tillerson's. and Mattis which will shortly be followed by General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff . "Public subtleties and invented bonhomie," Hussain added, are just to show.

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