KUWAIT CITY - US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis says he does not plan to “prod” Pakistan, but expects it adhere to its promises to combat terrorism, as he embarks on his first visit to Islamabad as Pentagon chief.
Speaking aboard a military plane, Mattis said he does not expect to butt heads during his Monday meetings with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. “That’s not the way I deal with issues,” Mattis said. “I believe that we [can] work hard on finding common ground and then we work together.”
In October, Mattis warned the United States is willing to work “one more time” with Pakistan before taking “whatever steps are necessary” to address its alleged support for militants.
But on Sunday, Mattis said he is focused on trying to find “more common ground ... by listening to one another without being combative.”
Before Mattis’ visit, other Trump administration officials are taking a harder public stance on Pakistan.
Speaking at a defence forum Saturday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said, “We are going to do everything we can to ensure that safe havens no longer exist,” if Pakistan does not heed the US message on militants, reported Voice of America (VOA).
But any kind of punitive action wouldn’t take place for at least a few weeks at minimum, predicts Michael Kugelman, a South Asia analyst with the Woodrow Wilson Center. “I think [the administration] wants to give the Pakistanis a bit more time to see if they’re responding to the various demands the United States made of them when it comes to cracking down on terrorists,” said Kugelman.
One of the likelier US responses, according to Kugelman, is expanding not only the geographic scope of the drone war, but also widening the type of targets the United States goes after. “I think we could start seeing the US trying to target more Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban targets,” especially in the sparsely populated Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said.
Mattis, who is on a regional tour that also took him to Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait, wouldn’t elaborate on any possible US action. But he says the situation is pressing. “There’s always an urgency to something when 39 nations plus Afghanistan have their troops in the midst of a long war where casualties are being taken,” he said.
Mattis won’t ‘prod’ Pakistan during visit