US Defence Secretary to visit Pakistan next week

By Arul Louis

New York, Dec 2 (IANS): US Defence Secretary James Mattis, who has said that Washington needs "to try one more time" to get Islamabad to act against terrorists, is visiting Pakistan on Monday, the Pentagon has announced.

He is planning to meet Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the statement said.

Terrorism is expected to be the centre piece during their discussions.

The visit comes at a crucial time in the 16-year war in Afghanistan when the US is ramping up operations with its military personnel expected to go to the front lines as advisers to the Afghan military. Preventing terrorist attacks on the US troops assumes higher priority.

Mattis will also be visiting Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait during the trip which seeks "to re-affirm the enduring US commitment to partnerships in the Middle East, West Africa and South Asia, the Pentagon said.

He visited India in September and held talks with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman on strengthening security cooperation between their countries and together with Afghanistan.

Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee in October about the problem of terrorism emanating from Pakistan, Mattis said: "We need to try one more time to make this strategy work with them, by, with and through the Pakistanis, and if our best efforts fail, President Trump is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary."

Asked at the meeting if demoting Pakistan from the status of a major non-Nato ally could be an action Washington could take, he said, "Sure, it'll be."

President Donald Trump unveiling his Afghanistan strategy said Pakistan has "much to lose" if it continued harbouring terrorists.

According to reports, there are about 14,000 US service personnel now in Afghanistan.

The commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson has said that over 1,000 US soldiers will be deployed on the front lines acting as advisers to Afghan troops.

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