WASHINGTON - – U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis asserted on Tuesday the United States would try â€œone more timeâ€� to work with Pakistan in Afghanistan before President Donald Trump would turn to options to address Islamabadâ€™s alleged support for militant groups.
Relations between the two countries have been frayed over the past decade. While authorities 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.
â€œWe 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,â€� Mattis asserted at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Mattis added in that he would be traveling to Islamabad soon, yet did not give more details.
Reuters 1st reported in that possible Trump administration responses being discussed contain expanding U.S. drone strikes and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistanâ€™s status as a major non-NATO ally.
When asked by a lawmaker whether revoking Pakistanâ€™s major non-NATO ally status was amongst the options being in consideration to deal with Islamabad, Mattis said: â€œI am sure it will be.â€�
In a separate Senate hearing on Tuesday, the top U.S. military officer asserted he believed Pakistanâ€™s main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, had ties to militant groups.
â€œIt is clear to me in that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups,â€� Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Pakistan embassy in Washington asserted Islamabad had achieved success in counter-terrorism operations in its country.
â€œHowever, unless the same level of success is achieved in (Afghanistan), long lasting peace in the region will remain out of reach,â€� the embassy asserted in a statement.
The United States in 2012 designated the Pakistan-based Haqqani network as a terrorist organization. The- year before, U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, then the top U.S. military officer, caused a stir when he told Congress in that the Haqqani network was a â€œveritable armâ€� of the ISI directorate.
U.S. authorities have told Reuters in that the United States will send about 3,500 additional troops to Afghanistan.
Dunford asserted in 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.
Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Michael Perry; Editing by James Dalgleish and Cynthia Osterman