World Bulletin / News Desk
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis met Pakistan's political and military leadership on his maiden visit to Islamabad on Monday, in yet another attempt to bridge deepening mistrust between the two allies.
Accompanied by senior officials from the U.S. defense and state departments, Mattis met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, separately, during his day-long visit, the second tour of a high profile U.S. official in less than a month.
Abbasi was accompanied by Defense Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, and head of the country’s prime spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar, said a statement from the prime minister house.
Mattis called for deepening cooperation for eliminating terrorism in the region, according to the statement.
He added that in his long association with Pakistan, he was aware of the sacrifices rendered and lives lost in Pakistan's fight against terrorism.
Responding to a longtime U.S. demand for action against the powerful Haqqani network in the country, Abbasi reiterated that there are no safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan, the statement said.
Abbasi said both Pakistan and the U.S. were working to establish peace in Afghanistan.
Last month U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Pakistan amid escalating diplomatic tensions between Washington and Islamabad following U.S. President Donald Trump's new policy for Afghanistan, which promises a broader role for India in the region, and accuses Pakistan of hosting terrorist safe havens.
Pakistan denies the charge and accuses Kabul of allowing militants to use its soil for attacking Pakistani security forces and civilians.
Islamabad has agreed to initiate fresh efforts to bring Taliban back to the negotiation table, following an ice-breaking visit of Pakistan’s army chief to Kabul in October, according to Pakistani media reports.
Pakistan had brokered a landmark round of direct talks between the fragile Afghan government, and the Taliban in Islamabad in July 2015, but the process broke down after the Taliban announced the death of their long-term leader, Mullah Omer, triggering a bitter power struggle within the militant group.
Chances for resumption of the stalled process went further dim following death of Mullah Omer’s successor, Mullah Mansur in a U.S. drone strike last year in southwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border.
Several attempts aimed at resuming the halted process have been made since July 2015 by a four-nation group comprising of Pakistan, Afghanistan, U.S. and China, but they have all failed one after another.
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Speaking to reporters as he returned from a trip to Oman, Afghanistan and Bahrain, Mattis said officials he met with had expressed frequent concerns about Iranian behavior.
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