ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON: US defence chief James Mattis arrived at the Nur Khan Airbase on Monday afternoon where he was received by officials from the defence and foreign ministries.
Earlier, Mattis said he intends to “work hard on finding the common ground” and “work together” with Pakistan — where he arrives today for his first visit since taking over the charge of the Pentagon.
The US secretary of defence’s trip aims “to re-affirm the enduring US commitment to partnerships” in the region, according to a press release by the US Department of Defense.
Mattis began his crucial five-day tour of the Middle East — including Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait — and Islamabad on Friday. He is set to meet Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Having underscored earlier that Washington wants to see progress in the Pakistan-US relations, the defence secretary will hold discussions on regional security, peace, bilateral issues, and the Afghan conflict — something of key importance especially after US President Donald Trump announced his new regional strategy in August.
Speaking to reporters travelling with him in the Middle East, the American defence chief said, “We have heard from Pakistan leaders that they do not support terrorism. So I expect to see that sort of action reflected in their policies.”
When asked if he was going to press the Pakistani leaders to take more action against the insurgents, Mattis stated that the country was taking action in its own best interests and “that’s not the way I deal with issues”.
“I believe that we work hard on finding the common ground and then we work together.”
“There’s plenty of collaborative areas, right now, still in effect. There’s been some areas that we have lost over the years, because of disagreements about what we need to do,” he said.
“We’ll discuss the South Asia strategy,” the secretary noted, saying that he had already visited India and Afghanistan and it was a continued dialogue that the US had for the process to ensure peace in Afghan.
“The US remains committed to a pragmatic relationship that expands cooperation on shared interests” while reinforcing Trump’s call for action against the alleged safe havens, Mattis said.