‘US ready to address Pak’s legitimate concerns’ on regional peace

US Secretary of Defense General James Mattis called on Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in his maiden visit to Pakistan and assured that the US is ready to play its role in addressing Pakistan’s legitimate concerns, saying that his aim is not to make demands but find common grounds to work together.

A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to TRT World, said one of the topics of conversation was getting Pakistan to help bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

According to a brief statement issued by the US Embassy late Monday, “Secretary [Mattis] earlier met with PM Khakan Abbasi and emphasized the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the United States and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that brings stability and security to the region,” in his meetings with Pakistani officials.

“The Secretary reiterated that Pakistan must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country,” it added.

During the meeting, General Mattis informed the Pakistani civilian leadership that the purpose of his visit was to find “common grounds” in order to create a positive, consistent and long-term relationship with Pakistan, read a statement issued by Prime Minister House.

Pakistani Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, National Security Adviser Nasser Khan Janjua and Director General (DG) ISI Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar were among those who attended. US Ambassador David Hale was also present.

PM Abbasi 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.

“The premier also appreciated the US resolve not to allow the use of Afghan soil against Pakistan,” the PM House’s statement added.

The meeting Mattis held with the army chief at GHQ in Rawalpindi on Monday, focused on regional security with particular emphasis on Afghanistan as well as other matters of mutual interest, says an ISPR statement issue in the garrison city.

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Bajwa reiterated Pakistan’s support to peace and stability in the region and highlighted Pakistan’s concerns emanating from Indian use of Afghan soil, the necessity and right of Afghan refugees for a respectable and early repatriation, and the existence of terrorist safe havens across the border in Afghanistan,” it read.

“Gen Mattis […] assured that US is ready to play its role in addressing Pakistan’s legitimate concerns, saying that his aim is not to make demands but find common grounds to work together,” the military’s statement said.

“The COAS appreciated the dignitary’s understanding of the underlying issues and said that Pakistan does not require anything from US but understanding.

Mattis arrived in Islamabad a day after CIA Director Mike Pompeo warned Pakistan that if it does not eliminate the alleged safe havens inside its territory, the United States will do “everything we can” to destroy them.

“The safe havens inside Pakistan have worked to the detriment of our capacity to do what we needed to do in Afghanistan,” Pompeo had said.

On Saturday, Secretary Mattis had told reporters that he would look for “common grounds” between America and Pakistan during his time in Islamabad.

Asked if he was going to press the government to take more action against militants, Mattis said: “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.”

While acknowledging history of US engagements with Pakistan especially the ongoing efforts for continuing the positivity for peace in the region, Gen Bajwa said Pakistan has done much more than its due share despite capacity constraints but shall remain committed for peace as a responsible member of international community.

Gen Mattis expressed his respect for Pakistan Armed Forces and the effective operations undertaken against terrorists.

He highlighted concern that a few elements continue to use Pakistan’s territory to further their terrorist agenda in Afghanistan.

The COAS appreciated the dignitary’s undertaking of the underlying issues and said that Pakistan does not require anything from the US but understanding. We have eliminated safe havens from Pakistan’s soil but are prepared to look into the possibility of miscreants exploiting Pakistan’s hospitality to the Afghan refugees to the detriment of our Afghan brothers.

Both agreed to work towards specific and sustained actions on each other’s concerns.

Political analyst Imtiaz Gul said the latest US effort to push Pakistan to do more would likely fall short again unless its concerns are also addressed.

“It will always remain a point of friction between the two countries because the US is using Afghanistan as a benchmark for Pakistan to deliver on its demands,” said Gul.

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