US Defence Secretary James Mattis today arrived in Pakistan with the issue of terrorist safe havens high on the agenda, after the release from house arrest of 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed last month.
US Defence Secretary James Mattis has asked Pakistan to “redouble” its efforts to confront militants operating from its soil, reaffirming Washington’s concern that Islamabad has not done enough to combat terrorism. Mattis held separate meetings yesterday with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa to explore ways to effectively eliminate the threat of militancy. The defence secretary reiterated that Pakistan must “redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country,” the US Embassy in Islamabad said in a statement after Mattis concluded his maiden visit to the country. Mattis recognised Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism. He emphasised the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the US and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that brings stability and security to the region, the statement said.
His visit to Pakistan comes days after the 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed was released from house arrest. The defence secretary also met Army chief Bajwa at the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi. The meeting was focused on regional security with particular emphasis on Afghanistan as well as other matters of mutual interest, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement. Bajwa appreciated Mattis’ understanding of the underlying issues and said that Pakistan does not require anything from the US but understanding, the statement said.
“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,” it said. The two sides also agreed to work towards specific and sustained actions on each other’s concerns. “He (Bajwa) 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 statement said.
Relations between the US and Pakistan plummeted after President Donald Trump announced his new Afghan policy in August and directly blamed Islamabad for supporting the Taliban and the Haqqani network. The visit of Mattis comes about a week after the White House asked Pakistan to immediately arrest and charge 26/11 mastermind Saeed, in the absence of which it warned Islamabad of repercussions. JuD chief Saeed, who has an American bounty of USD 10 million on his head, walked free on November 24 after a court ordered an end to his 10-month detention.