US Defense Secretary James Mattis is on a visit to Pakistan for talks on Washington’s new military strategy in Afghanistan amid friction between the two sides over what the White House calls Islamabad’s support for militant groups.
Visiting Pakistan for the first time as the US defense chief, Mattis arrived at the Nur Khan Airbase in Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad on Monday.
Mattis is scheduled to meet Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa for talks on regional developments, bilateral issues and the war in Afghanistan.
Prior to his arrival, Mattis said his trip was aimed at finding “common ground” with Pakistan in the fight against the Taliban-linked militants, which the US says use Pakistani soil to launch attacks in Afghanistan.
Officials in Islamabad have strongly rejected the allegations. They say Pakistan has made great effort to fight terrorism.
Asked on whether he was going to press the Pakistani leaders to take more action against the militants, Mattis replied, “I believe that we work hard on finding the common ground and then we work together” on the counterterrorism fight.
Mattis added that during his visit he wanted to make sure Pakistan’s leaders “do not support terrorism” and remained committed to “partnerships.”
“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,” he told reporters traveling with him this week.