US defence secretary to visit Pakistan on Monday to seek support

United States (US) Defence Secretary James Mattis will arrive in Pakistan for a one-day visit on Monday for talks on the new US strategy for South Asia, which seeks Pakistan’s support for defeating the Taliban.

The visit will be part of Mattis’s trip to three other countries this week, which he is undertaking to “re-affirm the enduring US commitment to partnerships in the Middle East, West Africa and South Asia”, a press release issued by the US Depart­­ment of Defence said.
According to the statement, Mattis will meet Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa during his day-long trip.
The Pentagon’s Joint Staff Director Lt Gen Kenneth McKenzie told a news briefing earlier this month that the US has completed additional deployments in Afghanistan by adding 3,000 troops to its existing strength and is ready to conduct joint combat missions with official Afghan forces.
The US now has a total of 14,000 troops in Afghanistan and expects 2,000 additional troops from its Nato allies.
The deployments are part of a US strategy to persuade Taliban to hold peace talks with the Afghan government by defeating them in the battlefield. And Secretary Mattis is expected to seek Pakistan’s cooperation to accomplish this goal when he visits Islamabad.
Mattis is likely to ask Pakistan to eliminate the Haqqani Network which, the US claims, still has hideouts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and uses them for launching attacks in Afghanistan.
The US demand for “more concrete” actions against the Haqqani Network also dominated talks between Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington last month.
The foreign minister also met US National Security Advisor Gen H.R. McMaster at the White House, which is believed to have focused entirely on the US demand for Pakistan to do more.
Pakistan responds to US charges by referring to recent military operations that Washington also acknowledges have greatly reduced the threat of terrorism inside the country.
Mattis’s itinerary
Mattis will begin his multi-nation trip with a visit to Egypt on December 2, Saturday. There he will meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the defence minister.
He will then proceed to Jordan on Dec 3 to participate in the Aqaba Process, a meeting on countering violent extremism in West Africa, hosted by King Abdullah II.
After visiting Pakistan on Monday, the defence secretary will end his trip by visiting Kuwait on Dec 5, where he will meet Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah and other leaders.

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