US Defence Secretary James Mattis today asked Pakistan to "redouble" efforts to confront militants operating from its soil as he met the country's top leadership here, amid Washington's concerns that Islamabad was not doing enough to dismantle terror safe havens. Mattis held a meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi after arriving here on his maiden tour to Pakistan to explore ways to effectively eliminate the threat of militancy, days after 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed was released from house arrest. The US Embassy in Islamabad said in a statement that Mattis told Abbasi to "redouble" efforts to tackle militants operating from Pakistan's territory. "The secretary reiterated that Pakistan must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country," Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W White said after Mattis concluded his inaugural trip to Pakistan. Mattis also met Minister of Defence Khurram Dastigir Khan, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General Naveed Mukhtar. "Mattis recognised Pakistan's sacrifices in the war against terrorism," White said, adding that Mattis emphasised the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the US and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that brings stability and security to the region. Abbasi said Pakistan, in its national interest, would continue to conduct intelligence-based operations all over the country to consolidate the gains achieved in the last four years. "The prime minister reiterated that there are no safe havens in Pakistan and the entire nation was committed to its resolve on eradicating terrorism once and for all in all its forms and manifestations," according to a statement by the Prime Minister's Office here. Abbasi said no other country benefits more from peace and stability in Afghanistan than Pakistan. He agreed with Mattis that both Pakistan and the US have common stakes in securing peace and security in Afghanistan for the long term stability of the broader region. He also appreciated the US resolve not to allow the use of Afghan soil against Pakistan. Recalling the longstanding relationship with the US, he underlined the need for a broad-based engagement to strengthen partnership and enhance cooperation between the two countries. Mattis stated that the "purpose of his visit was to find common grounds in order to create a positive, consistent and long-term relationship with Pakistan," the statement said. He underscored the importance of continuing and deepening cooperation for the common objective of eliminating terrorism from the region. Relations between the US and Pakistan plummeted after President Donald Trump announced his new Afghan policy in August and directly blamed Islamabad for supporting the Taliban and the Haqqani network. "We have heard from Pakistani leaders that they do not support terrorism. So I expect to see that sort of action reflected in their policies," Mattis said ahead of his trip. CIA Director Mike Pompeo had said Pakistan's policy of using terrorists as leverage against India and Afghanistan has not changed. "Not yet," he said when asked to comment on the issue even as he warned Islamabad that the US will do "everything it can" to ensure that terror safe havens no longer exist in the country. Pompeo told the Reagan National Defence Forum in California over the weekend that this is the message that Mattis was tasked to deliver to the Pakistani leadership. The visit of Mattis comes about a week after the White House asked Pakistan to immediately arrest and charge 26/11 mastermind Saeed, in the absence of which it warned Islamabad of repercussions. JuD chief Saeed, who has an American bounty of USD 10 million on his head, walked free on November 24 after a court ordered an end to his 10-month detention. Mattis said he needs to talk to leaders in Pakistan and gain their understanding. "The first thing I'm going to do is do some listening, like I always do.
My goal is to find common ground. I need to go, to sit down and listen to them, start there, start by listening," he said earlier, on his way to Pakistan. Mattis is the first top American official to visit Pakistan after completion of the first 100 days of the US' new South Asia strategy unveiled by Trump on August 21.
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