Rawalpindi, Pakistan: Pakistan Army has expressed concerns to US Secretary of Defence James Mattis over the usage of Afghan soil against Pakistan.
The US Secretary of Defence James Mattis who called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at GHQ on Monday was briefed about Pakistan’s support to peace and stability in the region and about Pakistan’s concerns emanating from Indian use of Afghan soil. While US Secretary of Defence James Mattis reiterated that Pakistan must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country.
It is pertinent to mention that one-day visit of US Secretary of Defence James Mattis concluded on Monday without holding joint press conference with Pakistani civil or military leadership and no joint communique was released while three separate statements were received to media—one from ISPR, another from Prime Minister Office and US version of meeting through US Embassy in Islamabad. It may be mentioned that no joint communique was released when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Islamabad on October 24.
According to a press statement issued by Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) of Pakistan Armed Forces, the meeting was focused on regional security with particular emphasis on Afghanistan as well as other matters of mutual interest. COAS acknowledged history of US engagements with Pakistan especially the ongoing efforts for continuing the positivity for peace in the region. He said that Pakistan has done much more than its due share despite capacity constraints but shall remain committed for peace as a responsible member of international community. He reiterated Pakistan’s support to peace and stability in the region and highlighted Pakistan’s concerns emanating from Indian use of Afghan soil, the necessity and right of Afghan refugees for a respectable & early repatriation and the existence of terrorist safe havens across the border in Afghanistan.
Gen Mattis expressed his respect for Pakistan Armed Forces and the effective operations undertaken against terrorists. He highlighted concern that a few elements continue to use Pakistan’s territory to further their terrorist agenda in Afghanistan. He assured that US is ready to play its role in addressing Pakistan’s legitimate concerns, saying that his aim is not to make demands but find common grounds to work together.
COAS appreciated the dignitary’s understanding of the underlying issues and said that Pakistan does not require anything from US but understanding. 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 our Afghan brothers.
Both agreed to work towards specific and sustained actions on each other’s concerns.
US Embassy in Pakistan released a separate Press Statement that says:
Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Islamabad on December 4 on his inaugural trip to Pakistan in this position.
In Islamabad, Secretary Mattis met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Minister of Defense Khurram Dastigir Khan. Secretary Mattis also met with Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar.
Secretary Mattis recognized Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism. The Secretary emphasized the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the United States and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that brings stability and security to the region. The Secretary reiterated that Pakistan must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country.
Prime Minister Office says:
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Office released a separate statement about the meeting of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi with US Secretary of Defence General James Mattis.
Statement said that US Secretary of Defence, General Mattis was accompanied by senior officials from Department of Defence and the US Ambassador to Pakistan while Prime Minister was assisted by Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Interior as well as senior officials from the respective ministries.
General Mattis stated that the purpose of his visit was to find common grounds in order to create a positive, consistent and long term relationship with Pakistan. He emphasized that in view of his long association with Pakistan, he was keenly aware of the sacrifices rendered and the lives lost in Pakistan’s fight against terrorism and extremism; and his personal respect and appreciation for the professional abilities of Pakistan’s armed forces. General Mattis also underscored the importance of continuing and deepening cooperation for the common objective of eliminating terrorism from the region.
Recalling the longstanding relationship with the United States, the Prime Minister underlined the need for a broad based engagement to strengthen partnership and enhance cooperation between the two countries.
Articulating Pakistan’s perspective, Prime Minister noted that no other country benefits more from peace and stability in Afghanistan than Pakistan. He agreed with Secretary Mattis that both Pakistan and the US have common stakes in securing peace and security in Afghanistan for the long term stability of the broader region. Prime Minister also appreciated the US resolve not to allow the use of Afghan soil against Pakistan.
Sharing highlights of the recent counter terrorism operations to improve the law and order situation, Prime Minister noted that Pakistan, in its national interest, would continue to conduct intelligence based operations all over the country to consolidate the gains achieved in the last four years. The Prime Minister reiterated that there are no safe heavens in Pakistan and the entire nation was committed to its resolve on eradicating terrorism once and for all in all its forms and manifestations.