USA defense chief calls for deepening anti-terror cooperation with Pakistan

Pakistani soldiers walk at the premises of an Agriculture Training Institute after an attack by Taliban militants in Peshawar on Dec. 1 2017

Pakistani soldiers walk at the premises of an Agriculture Training Institute after an attack by Taliban militants in Peshawar on Dec. 1 2017

Mattis held separate meetings on Monday with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa to explore ways to effectively eliminate the threat of militancy.

"We're committed (to) the war against terror", he said.

The Pentagon said it would not resume payments until the defence secretary could certify that Islamabad had taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network and other militants who cross into Afghanistan from alleged sanctuaries in Pakistan.

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The biggest stakeholder of peace in the region after Afghanistan is Pakistan.

Mattis also met high-ranking officials from Pakistan's powerful military, including Lieutenant-General Naveed Mukhtar, the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency that U.S. officials say has links with Haqqani and Taliban militants.

During meeting with the United States defence chief, it was decided that the dialogue process between the two countries would continue through diplomatic contacts.

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A USA defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mattis's conversations had been "straightforward" and specific.

"The COAS [chief of army staff] took the forum on board about his military diplomacy through his recent visits overseas and interaction with foreign dignitaries visiting Pakistan", said a statement released by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). "I believe that we work hard on finding the common ground, and then we work together, so that's the approach I want to take".

The office said in a statement that Mattis 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".

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But Mattis's comments were in contrast to more strident language from the Central Intelligence Agency chief at a security forum last weekend. His fierce criticism sparked anti-US protests in Islamabad.

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