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Embracing a more nuanced diplomatic approach in engaging Pakistan in counter-terrorism efforts, US Defence Secretary James Mattis has asked Islamabad to intensify its efforts in rooting out terror from its soil.Mr Mattis met Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in Islamabad on December 4 and impressed upon the latter the compelling need to act against terror outfits.

A statement by the Prime Minister’s office in Pakistan said, “He [Mattis] emphasised that in view of his long association with Pakistan, he was keenly aware of the sacrifices rendered and the lives lost in Pakistan’s fight against terrorism and extremism; and his personal respect and appreciation for the professional abilities of Pakistan’s armed forces “.

A day before the defence secretary’s visit, CIA director Mike Pompeo warned the Pakistani establishment of strict measures if it fails to tackle terror. “In the absence of the Pakistanis achieving that, we are going to do everything we can to make sure that those safe havens no longer exist,” he said at the Reagan National Defence Forum in Simi, California. Mattis has evidently been milder in his engagement with the Pakistani administration this time, underscoring the common objectives and benefits that the US and Pakistan share in a stable Afghanistan and a Pakistan free of terror outfits. He has also assured the Pakistani leader that the US would not allow the use of Afghan bases to direct attacks on Pakistan.

Before his trip, Mr Mattis had said, “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”. He emphasized on engagement rather than arm-twisting tactics in forcing Pakistan to deal with terror. “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.”

The Prime Minister’s office in Pakistan reported Mr Abbasi’s promise of assistance by conducting intelligence based operations all over the country. “The Prime Minister reiterated that there are no safe heavens in Pakistan and the entire nation was committed to its resolve on eradicating terrorism once and for all in all its forms and manifestations,” the statement said. He also mentioned the fact that none other than Pakistan stands the most to gain from a peaceful Afghanistan.

It is to be seen how long this optimism lasts, even as the US administration headed by President Donald Trump is getting frustrated with the lack of concrete action by Pakistan in fighting the Taliban and allied Haqqani network insurgents within its borders.

 

 

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