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Trump to dispatch his top diplomatic and military advisers to Pakistan

08 October, 2017

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WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump will dispatch his top diplomatic and military advisers to Pakistan in the coming weeks, turning up the heat on the nuclear-armed ally accused of harbouring terror groups.

Weeks after Trump angrily accused Islamabad of providing safe haven to "agents of chaos", Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to depart for Pakistan late this month. He will be followed by Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis, according to US and Pakistani sources.

The one-two punch is designed to drill home Trump's message that Pakistan's alleged state support for jihadi groups has to end, according to officials briefed on the visits.

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

The relationship reached the breaking point in 2011, when then president Barack Obama sent commandos into Pakistan to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

With little change since then, Trump came to office indicating that Washington's frustration had reached the point where something had to give.

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

But in the six weeks since Trump signalled that tougher tone, there have been precious few signs that the calculus 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".

"To this point, we have not seen any impact on military-to-military relations," said a Pentagon official, suggesting any change would not happen after Mattis's visit.

Visiting Washington, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif 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 added.

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