US Defence Secretary James Mattis has said that America’s Nato allies back Washington’s efforts to persuade Pakistan to eradicate terrorism from the region.
Secretary Mattis said he discussed the new US strategy for South Asia with Nato leaders in Brussels this week because Washington felt it needed their support for implementing this policy.
“We want to make certain that no terrorist organisation can find a haven anywhere, and, with a border adjoining Afghanistan, that makes Pakistan a priority,” he said.
On Friday, the Pentagon released the transcript of a news conference Mr Mattis addressed in Brussels on Thursday, outlining salient features of the South Asia policy that President Donald Trump announced at the White House on Aug 21.
Pakistan has a key position in that strategy as policy makers in Washington believe that there can be no peace in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s support.
“So we’re engaging with the Pakistanis. We’re engaging a whole-of-government effort. We’ve got international efforts going on,” he said.
“And one of the reasons we brought it up here (at Nato) was to make certain we were all aligned about where we stood on this.”
The US defence secretary said it was important to eliminate terrorist safe haven because “no matter how badly they (terrorists) get beat up, they retreat across the border and then they come back again”.
Mr Mattis said that there’s a “remarkable alignment” of views between the US and its Nato allies on the need for “working together to get Pakistan to do everything it can to cut the insurgents off, the terrorists off”.
A journalist reminded the secretary that so far US efforts to persuade Pakistan to change its policies have not succeeded and asked how the new strategy was different.
“As far as what’s different about this, obviously, there are ways that we can reward Pakistan and there’s ways that we can ensure they’re held to account. But our principle, going into this, is that we are going to work with Pakistan and make this work, so that there’s no longer a threat coming across the border there,” Secretary Mattis explained.
“And this is an international effort. This isn’t an American-alone effort. So that in itself, that we’re aligned internationally, now, with what we’re doing, is probably the biggest change.”
Mr Mattis said that the new South Asia strategy has three key elements, regionalisation, realigning and reinforcing forces and reconciliation. The reconciliation, he said, was a political goal as “there’s no military campaign that doesn’t have a political goal”.
“So, what we want to do is start with — from India to — across the region to make certain that everyone’s working off the same sheet of music,” he added.