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In Islamabad, U.S. Defense Chief Looks To Bolster Counterterrorism Fight

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (file photo)
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (file photo)

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has met with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad as Washington looks to bolster the fight against terrorism amid U.S. complaints that Pakistan is not doing enough against insurgent groups within its borders.

Speaking before his talks with Mattis on December 4, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that his country was committed to the war against terrorism and shared the same objectives as the United States.

"Engagement is there," Abbasi said.

The U.S. defense secretary also met with U.S. Ambassador David Hale, Pakistani military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, as well as other top security officials and several ministers.

Ahead of his arrival in Islamabad, Mattis said on December 3: "We have heard from Pakistan leaders that they do not support terrorism. So I expect to see that sort of action reflected in their policies."

However, he said he wanted to work with the Pakistanis and not to exert pressure on the country’s leaders in the counterterrorism fight.

"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," he said.

Washington in the past has complained about what it sees as Pakistani efforts to provide "safe havens" for Taliban militants who stage attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.

U.S. officials say militants have crossed the mountainous and ill-defined Pakistani border to attack U.S., Afghan, and allied forces in Afghanistan.

The officials say insurgents then return to the safe havens in Pakistan, aided by the ISI, Islamabad's intelligence agency. Pakistan has denied the allegation.

U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Islamabad of harboring "agents of chaos" and vowed to get tough with Pakistan unless it changes its behavior.

Mattis told reporters in Kuwait before his departure to Pakistan that he will be "reinforcing President Trump's call for action against terrorist safe havens."

U.S. General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, expressed disappointment last week about the lack of progress, saying there had been no change in Pakistan's support for militant networks.

The United States in August said it would hold up $255 million in military assistance for Pakistan until it cracks down on the extremists threatening Afghanistan.

Islamabad is the final stop of Mattis's trip after stops in Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait.

With reporting by AP, Dawn, VOA, The Hindu, and Geo News