Tillerson, Mattis to deliver Trump's tough message to Pakistan

Last Updated: Sat, Oct 07, 2017 15:17 hrs
President Trump answers questions about the violence, injuries and deaths in Charlottesville in New York

Washington: United States President Donald Trump will send his top diplomatic and military advisers to Pakistan in the coming weeks, turning up the heat on Islamabad.

Weeks after Trump angrily accused Islamabad of providing safe haven to 'agents of chaos', Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to leave for Pakistan later this month.

He will be followed by Secretary of Defence James Mattis, according to sources.

The visits are intended to deliver Trump's message to Pakistan that state support to terror groups has to end, according to officials.

Washington, DC has long been frustrated by Pakistan's willingness to offer cross-border safe havens to Taliban factions and armed Islamist groups fighting US troops and their Afghan allies.

"We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting," Trump had said in August.

But in the six weeks since Trump signalled that tougher tone, there have been very few signs that the equations in South Asia has changed.

Mattis told Congress this week that he will try 'one more time' to 'see if we can make this work'.

However, Pakistan's foreign minister Khawaja Asif, who visited Washington, DC recently, appeared unwavering.

He lashed out at 'hollow allegations' about Pakistan harbouring terrorists as 'not acceptable'.

"That is not the way you talk to 70-year-old friends," Asif said bitterly.

"Instead of accusations and threats we should cooperate with each other for the peace in the region," he said while confirming Tillerson's visit.

Earlier this month a US drone killed three suspected militants in an attack on a compound in Pakistan's tribal region.

Pakistani officials complain of receiving mixed messages from the Trump administration, which is still struggling to find its feed under a mercurial commander-in- chief.

A September meeting in New York between Vice President Mike Pence and Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was said to be cordial, despite Trump's fire and brimstone rhetoric.

"It was a very good meeting with the vice president," said Asif.

After that, Pakistan officials said, they were surprised at a tougher tone outlined in public by Mattis and in private by Trump's National Security Adviser HR McMaster.

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