US defence secretary in Pakistan but with few hopes of success on Trump’s South Asia strategy
ISLAMABAD: U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Islamabad on Monday to ask Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership to do more to rein in militants accused of using the country as a base to carry out attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, reported Reuters.
More than 100 days since President Donald Trump announced his South Asia strategy, however, U.S. officials and analysts say there has been only limited success and it is not clear how progress will be made.
U.S. officials have long been frustrated by what they see as Pakistan’s reluctance to act against groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network that they believe exploit safe haven on Pakistani soil to launch attacks in Afghanistan.
“We have heard from Pakistani leaders that they do not support terrorism … we expect them to act in their own best interest, and in support of peace and regional stability,” Mattis told reporters traveling with him this week.
Mattis, who is visiting Pakistan for the first time as defense secretary, said the goal for his trip would be to find “common ground” and work together.
In August, Trump outlined a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, chastising Pakistan over its alleged support for Afghan militants. But beyond that, the Trump administration has done little to articulate its strategy, experts say.
In his meeting with Mattis, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the two allies shared common objectives.
“We’re committed (to) the war against terror,” he said. “Nobody wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan.”
But senior U.S. officials say they have not seen a change in Pakistan’s support for militants, despite visits by senior U.S. officials, including one by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently.
“We have been very direct and very clear with the Pakistanis … we have not seen those changes implemented yet,” General John Nicholson, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, said this week.
Pakistan says it has done a great deal to help the United States in tracking down militants and Pakistani officials have pushed back on the U.S. claims.