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USA Defence Secretary-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman to visit Pakistan soon

19 November, 2017

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WASHINGTON: Two key US officials — Defence Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair­man Gen Joseph Dunford — will visit Pakistan soon for seeking Islamabad’s cooperation in war against the Taliban.

Gen Dunford is expected early next week while Secre­tary Mattis will arrive in the first week of December, diplomatic sources told Dawn, adding that exact dates of their visit could not be disclosed for security reasons.

The Pentagon’s Joint Staff Director Lt Gen Kenneth McKenzie told a news briefing on Thursday that the United States 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 United States 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 and Gen Dunford are expected to seek Pakistan’s cooperation to accomplish this goal when they visit Islamabad.

The two key US defence officials are likely to ask Pakistan to eliminate the Haqqani Network which, they claim, still has hideouts in Fata and uses them for launching attacks into Afghanistan.

On Thursday, US Central Command Chief General Joseph Votel also delivered a similar message to the country’s top military leadership.

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.

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