U.S. offers Pakistan opportunity to “reset” the relationship, yet again

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, speaks with Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Benzir Bhutto Airport in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, following meetings with Prime Minister Imran Khan and other Pakistani officials. DoD photo by Jim Garamone

In line with its carrot-and-stick policy vis-a-vis Pakistan, just three days after announcing a $300 million cut in military aid to Pakistan, Washington has offered that country’s new leaders and its military, a chance to “reset” the relationship.

Pompeo and Marine Corps General Joe Dunford met with new Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Mehmood Qureshi and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, Sept. 5, en route to India for high-level meeting with counterparts for the strategic dialogue (2+2).

“We talked about their new government and the opportunity to reset the relationship between our two countries across a broad spectrum: economic, business, commercial — the work that we all need to do to try to develop a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan,” Pompeo told reporters in Rawalpindi, according to a DOD news report.

The bottom line with the talks is that the Pakistanis “agreed it is time to deliver on our joint commitments,” Pompeo said.

“We’ve had lots of time where we’ve talked and made agreements, but we haven’t been able to actually execute those,” Pompeo is quoted saying in the DOD report. “So there was broad agreement … that we need to begin to do things on the ground that will deliver outcomes so we can begin to build confidence and trust between the two countries.”

“When we talked to General Bajwa on a military-to-military level, we listened to the prime minister very carefully [and] we listened to the secretary very carefully. The objectives were very consistent between the secretary and prime minister,” Dunford said. “General Bajwa and I agreed that we will leverage the military-to-military relationship for the secretary and prime minister and, more importantly, for President Trump’s South Asia Strategy.”

Last year President Trump said that Pakistan “often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror,” and called on Pakistan to stop providing safe havens for terrorists who rest and refit for actions in Afghanistan and elsewhere. “Pakistan has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists,” the president said at the time.

Most recently, just three days before Pompeo left for Islamabad, Washington announced it is cutting $300 in military aid to that South Asian nation.

Following the discussions, Pompeo said the military-to-military relationship underpins the move to reset the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. There will be more discussions ahead, and there must be more results, he said.

In a media briefing en route to India Sept. 5, Secretary of Defense James Mattis was non-committal when asked about his assessment of the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence and its alleged support of the Haqqani network, a Sunni Muslim terrorist group under the Taliban network, that has occasionally hit Indian targets in Afghanistan and operates on that country’s southeastern border with Pakistan.

“As far as the ISI, let me just say that Pakistan has a new government, against the odds of some skeptics.  There was a peaceful transition of power.  Government’s being put together,” Mattis noted.

“…  we do expect that Pakistan will be part of the community of nations that give no haven to terrorism.  I mean, that’s what we expect of all nations in the world.  And so that’s where we’re at on it.”

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