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Pence Tells Abbasi That Pakistan Must Do More To Defeat Militants

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence conducted talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence conducted talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi that his country should work more closely with the United States and do more to defeat the Taliban and other militants, the White House said.

"Vice President Pence reiterated President [Donald] Trump's request that the government of Pakistan must do more to address the continued presence of the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and other terrorist groups operating in their country," the White House said on March 17, referring to the talks conducted the night before.

"Pakistan could and should work closer with the United States," Pence said, according to the statement.

The statement did not indicate the exact time, site, or nature of the talks, but U.S. and Pakistani news media quoting official sources as saying a meeting took place at the vice president’s official residence in Washington.

The sources said Abbasi was on a private visit to the United States and that the meeting was arranged at the request of the Pakistani prime minister.

Earlier on March 16, a senior U.S. official told reporters that Pakistan is doing the "bare minimum" needed to address U.S. demands that it stop the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network from operating within its borders.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, was updating reporters with his assessment of Pakistan's efforts to counter the militants since Trump announced last year he would withhold $2 billion a year in military aid unless Islamabad takes more vigorous action.

"The Pakistanis have wanted to appear responsive," but "they have done the bare minimum to appear responsive to our requests," the official said.

"We continue to make very specific requests, and when provided with very specific information, they have responded," he said. "But we have not seen them proactively take the steps that we expect and know they are capable of."

The United States in particular is demanding that Pakistan move against Taliban leaders who support a continuation of the war in Afghanistan and oppose participating in peace talks with Kabul, the official said.

But the country's powerful security services still seems to be supporting the Afghan Taliban, the official said, most likely because it sees the Taliban as aligned with Islamabad's interest in keeping India from influencing Afghanistan.

"We are continuing to look for real action, not just words, from Pakistan on the Taliban and Haqqani sanctuaries," the official said.

"We need to sustain the pressure," he said, adding that the administration is willing to "give it more time, it deserves more time."

Pakistani media reported that Abbasi arrived in Washington on March 14 for a medical procedure and that he met with U.S. lawmakers during his visit.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, Geo News, and Dunya News