US will work 'one more time' with Pakistan in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON • United States Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has said that Washington would try "one more time" to work with Pakistan in Afghanistan before President Donald Trump turns to options to address Islamabad's alleged support for militant groups.

Relations between the two countries have been frayed over the past decade.

While officials have long questioned the role Pakistan has played in Afghanistan, the comments by Mr Mattis are likely to cause concern in Islamabad and within Pakistan's military.

"We need to try one more time to make this strategy work with them, by, with and through the Pakistanis, and if our best efforts fail, the President is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary," Mr Mattis said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Mr Mattis added that he would be travelling to Islamabad soon, but did not give more details.

Reuters reported that possible Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding drone strikes and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan's status as a major non-Nato ally. When asked by a lawmaker whether revoking this status was among the options being considered, Mr Mattis said: "I am sure it will be."

In a separate US Senate hearing on Tuesday, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: "It is clear to me that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups."

The US' top military officer was referring to Pakistan's main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate.

The Pakistan Embassy in Washington said Islamabad had achieved success in counter-terrorism operations in its country.

"However, unless the same level of success is achieved in (Afghanistan), long-lasting peace in the region will remain out of reach," the embassy said in a statement.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2017, with the headline 'US will work 'one more time' with Pakistan in Afghanistan'. Print Edition | Subscribe