Islamabad/Washington: The issue of combatting terrorism will be raised by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his talks here with Pakistan's new leadership next week, according to a media report.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday had confirmed that Pompeo will be in Islamabad on September 5 but now it has emerged that he would not be alone on the important trip. He will be accompanied by Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Joseph F Dunford.
"The secretary of state and the chairman are going to fly in to Islamabad to meet with the new government that's in place there now," Defence Secretary James Mattis said during a news briefing at the Pentagon on Tuesday. The need to fight terrorists would be "the primary part" of their discussions with Pakistani leaders, he was quoting by Dawn newspaper as saying. Dunford, who also attended the briefing, said the US had "permanent interests in South Asia" and wanted to "maintain a presence (there) to have influence in that region".
Pompeo and General Dunford are expected to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan.
In their talks with Pakistani officials, the delegation will "make very clear what we have to do, all of our nations, in meeting our common foe, the terrorists," Mattis said. "And make that a primary part of the discussion."
General Dunford said that the US would maintain both diplomatic and security presence in South Asia and the form of that presence was going to change over time.
General Dunford's inclusion in the delegation dispels the impression that this was not a proper visit but just a stopover, as US state and defence secretaries were both going to be in New Delhi next week for the first two-plus-two talks between the US and India, the report said.
But Secretary Mattis' emphasis on the need to fight terrorists reignites the controversy stirred last week after Secretary Pompeo's first call to Khan, it said.
The US Department of State issued a statement after the call, saying that "Secretary Pompeo raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan".
Pakistan rejected the US statement as incorrect, saying that the issue of terrorism was not discussed.
At the Pentagon briefing, Secretary Mattis avoided whipping up the controversy and did not comment when a journalist asked if he trusted the new Pakistani leadership's commitment to fight terrorism.
Mattis, however, said that Secretary Pompeo and he were going to New Delhi for talks aimed at further strengthening a growing partnership with India. "We see the strengthening of India's democracy, its military, its economy as a stabilising element in the world, he said. "And we want to make certain that where we have common interests, we are working together." He said that a number of agreements would be finalised at this two-plus-two meeting in New Delhi.