WASHINGTON (web desk/agencies) – U.S. Defense Semcretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday the United States would try “one more time” to work with Pakistan in Afghanistan before President Donald Trump would turn to options to address his apprehensions with Islamabad.
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 Mattis are likely to cause concern in Islamabad and within the Pakistan 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,” Mattis said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Mattis added that he would be traveling to Islamabad soon, but did not give more details.
Reuters first reported that possible Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding U.S. drone strikes and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally.
When asked by a lawmaker whether revoking Pakistan’s major non-NATO ally status was amongst the options being considered to deal with Islamabad, Mattis said: “I am sure it will be.”
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.
U.S. officials have told Reuters that the United States will send about 3,500 additional troops to Afghanistan.
Dunford said that the current cost for the United States in Afghanistan was about $12.5 billion a year, and the new strategy would cost an additional $1.1 billion.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif in Washington
Meanhwile, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif reached Washington on a three-day tour on Tuesday. He is expected to meet US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today to resume bilateral talks and work out ways to dispel tensions that cropped up after US President Donald Trump’s August 21 speech.
Asif will also meet US National Security Adviser Lt Gen HR McMaster during the trip. He will be addressing a gathering at the US Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington on US-Pakistan relations on October 5.