‘One more’ chance: U.S. generals say Pakistan-Afghan region has world’s highest jihadist concentration

by WorldTribune Staff, October 5, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump will try to work with Pakistan on counter-terrorism “one more time” before taking measures forcing the nation to do more, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told lawmakers on Oct. 3.

“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, President Trump is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary,” Mattis said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the president’s strategy in the region.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (left) and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. / AFP

Trump has already withheld $50 million in 2016 outstanding military reimbursements to Pakistan because it failed to take what the administration deemed adequate action against the Taliban and its ally the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan.

According to U.S. Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of American and NATO troops, the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is home to the “highest concentration” of jihadist groups in the world – 20 of the 98 U.S. or UN-designated terrorist organizations.

Mattis said he believes the Trump administration will ultimately convince Pakistan to stop serving as a safe haven for terrorist groups.

“I like to think we will be successful,” he said, adding the U.S. has an “enormously powerful number of options” if not.

Mattis said that stripping Pakistan of its “major non-NATO ally” status is on the table.

“I think that right now with the growing consensus against terrorism, they’ll find themselves diplomatically isolated, they’ll find themselves economically in increasing trouble as countries that are damaged by this terrorism coming out of there say enough is enough and take steps,” Mattis said. “There’s an awful lot of advantage to Pakistan coming on line with the international community.”

Mattis said the U.S. is “deepening and broadening” its military relationship with India “but it is not an exclusive strategy exclusive of anyone. Any nation that wants to be part of this counter-terror effort and the stability effort in South Asia can sign up. Pakistan need not think this is exclusive of them. It’s open to any nation that wants to move against terrorism and remove this threat to all civilized nations.”

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who testified alongside Mattis on Oct. 3, urged Beijing to “play a more productive role” in countering terrorism in Afghanistan, which shares a border with China.

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