US Secretary of Defence James Mattis calls on PM Abbasi

Mattis says he's ready to listen during his trip to Pakistan

US Defence Secretary James Mattis arrived in Pakistan on Monday for his first visit to the country since taking charge at the Pentagon.

The visit takes place at a time when Pakistan faces tough times ahead in the wake of veiled United States threats of renewed sanctions over Islamabad's alleged inability to curb terrorism and hunt down Afghan Taliban's Haqqani network, now engaged in carrying out attacks against American troops operating in the war-torn country.

He added that in his long association with Pakistan, he was aware of the sacrifices rendered and lives lost in Pakistan's fight against terrorism.

"The goal of my visit is to find common grounds in order to create a positive, consistent and long term relationship with Pakistan", Mattis said.

Accounts of the meeting provided by both the USA and Pakistan state that the countries intend to work together to confront the conflict in Afghanistan, where the fighting an insurgent Taliban, among other groups.

Saeed heads the UN-listed terrorist group Jamaat-ud-Dawa and has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head.

The Pakistani foreign ministry last week admitted there was a difference of opinion between the two countries on issues relating to terrorism and security but a series of meetings had been planned to reach a common ground.

Mattis had also said that his discussions with the leadership in Islamabad will also focus on US President Donald Trump's South Asia policy which was announced in September.

"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 out Afghan brothers", the statement reads.

Since the start of the war in Afghanistan, militants in Pakistan have crossed the mountainous and ill-defined border to wage attacks, then return to safe havens in Pakistan, where they have had a long-standing relationship with the ISI, Islamabad's intelligence agency.

Mattis began his five-day tour of the Middle East - including Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait - and Islamabad Dec. 1.

The top USA commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, said last week that Pakistan had yet to take significant actions against the groups and that senior Taliban leadership resides in Pakistan. "We've not yet seen those steps play out", Nicholson told reporters in a recent briefing.

In a stern warning to Pakistan, CIA Director Mike Pompeo has said that if Pakistan does not get its act together and dismantle the terrorist safe havens on its territory, the United States will "do everything" to see that these sanctuaries no longer exist.

President Donald Trump's tough words about Pakistan as he unveiled the updated USA strategy for the war in Afghanistan, infuriated Islamabad and triggered anti-U.S. protests there that Pakistani police had to use tear gas to disperse.

Mattis' trip aims "to re-affirm the enduring U.S. commitment to partnerships" in the region, according to a press release by the U.S. Department of Defense.



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