WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Pakistan’s leadership Monday that the country “must redouble” efforts to go after terrorists using the country as a safe haven, a Pentagon spokeswoman said in a statement.
Mattis, during his first trip to Pakistan as defense secretary, met Monday with Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Minister of Defense Khurram Dastgir Khan, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar.
Accounts of the meeting provided by both the U.S. and Pakistan state that the countries intend to work together to confront the conflict in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is fighting an insurgent Taliban, among other groups.
“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,” White said in the statement.
Pakistan in its statement denied that there are terrorist safe havens within its borders.
“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 out Afghan brothers,” the statement reads.
President Donald Trump’s strategy for the 16-year-old conflict in Afghanistan takes a regional approach and prioritizes Pakistan’s role in sheltering the Taliban and allied Haqqani network.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, said last week that Pakistan had yet to take significant actions against the groups and that senior Taliban leadership resides in Pakistan. He said the U.S. has been direct about its expectations from Pakistan.
“As you’ve heard our president say, as you’ve heard all of our senior leaders say, we have got to see movement on this reduction of sanctuary and support for those insurgents and terrorists operating from Pakistan who are attacking our forces and our coalition diplomats and forces, as well as the Afghans,” Nicholson said during a news briefing.
Prior to the Monday meeting, Mattis told reporters traveling with him that he would not make demands of Pakistan but rather look for common ground to work from. He said he would like to see Pakistan’s denouncement of terrorism reflected in policy.