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Tillerson Receives Cold Welcome During Pakistan Visit


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) is greeted by Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (right) in Islamabad on October 24.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on October 24 visited Pakistan amid fraying bilateral relations prompted by Washington's accusation that Islamabad is allegedly providing "safe havens" for Taliban militants.

Tillerson was greeted by a mid-level Pakistani Foreign Office official and the U.S. Ambassador David Hale at the military airport in Rawalpindi, just south of the capital, Islamabad -- a welcome without the pomp that usually accompanies high-level visits.

The trip was the first to Pakistan by a senior official of U.S. President Donald Trump's administration and comes months after Trump angrily accused Islamabad of harboring "agents of chaos" who could attack U.S.-led NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

It followed an unannounced stop in Afghanistan on October 23, where Tillerson reiterated America's commitment to the country and warned that Washington has made "very specific requests" to Pakistan over the militancy.

In Pakistan, Tillerson met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the powerful military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and other top officials.

Tillerson "reiterated President Trump's message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country," a statement from the U.S. Embassy said October 24.

Tillerson also voiced his appreciation to Pakistan for the sacrifices it has made in fighting militancy and for its help in securing the release of a U.S.-Canadian family held captive by the Taliban for five years.

"We are committed in the war against terror. We have produced results. And we are looking forward to moving ahead with the U.S. and building a tremendous relationship," Abbasi replied, according to a pool report.

Tillerson left Pakistan for India in the evening, less than four hours after his arrival.

Relations between uneasy allies United States and Pakistan have frayed in recent years, with Washington accusing Islamabad of tolerating and even helping Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network militants who stage attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies doing so.

Relations have deteriorated even more dramatically since Trump took office in January.

Trump has vowed to get tough with Pakistan unless it changed its behavior, with U.S. officials threatening further reductions in aid and contemplating targeted sanctions against Pakistani officials.

As one of 16 "Non-NATO Major Allies," Pakistan benefits from billions of dollars in aid and has access to advanced U.S. military technology banned from other countries.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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