Mattis Presses Pakistan To Stop Backing Terror Groups

Saagar Enjeti | White House Correspondent

Secretary of Defense James Mattis pressured the Pakistani government to end its support and tolerance of terrorist organizations within the country, during a Monday meeting with the country’s military leaders.

“The first thing I’m going to do is do some listening, like I always do. My goal is to find common ground,” Mattis said, previewing his strategy for dealing with the intransigent country.

The defense secretary also defended the U.S. record on trying to get Pakistan to end its support for terrorist groups in Afghanistan, saying he “wouldn’t characterize everything over the past 16 years as failures. There is clearly an abundance of areas where we have to double down, and I am optimistic at this point that because of what our adversaries, our mutual enemies are doing, that we can find ways to work together.”

Mattis’s visit followed recent comments from top U.S. General in Afghanistan John Nicholson, who said that Pakistan has not implemented any significant changes in its support for violent terrorist organizations in recent months. The senior-most leaders of the Taliban are known to continue residing in Pakistan, Nicholson added, and the country has not quelled the movement of militants across its borders. Pakistan’s intelligence services maintain deep ties to violent terrorist organizations and the Taliban, the general also confirmed.

Trump made changing Pakistani support for terrorist organizations a lynchpin of his Aug. 21 address on South Asia. “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists,” he declared in his address.

Paksitan’s government has made little indication of changing course in recent days with the release of wanted terrorist leader Hafiz Saeed from house arrest in late November. Saeed has a $10 million USD bounty on his head, and is a known orchestrator of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

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