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U.S. National Security Adviser Visits Pakistan, Hints At Tougher Stance

Pakistan's National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz (right) is pictured with U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster in Islamabad.

H.R. McMaster, U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser, has visited Pakistan, a day after he hinted that Washington could take a tougher stance on Islamabad.

McMaster arrived in the capital on April 17 for talks with Pakistan's civilian and military leadership as the Trump administration reviews its policy in the South Asian region.

His visit to Islamabad, coming a day after talks with Afghan leaders in Kabul, is the first high-level visit by an administration official since Trump took office on January 20.

A statement issued by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's office said McMaster had assured him that "the new administration was committed to strengthening bilateral relations and working with Pakistan, to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan, and in the wider South Asian region."

Trump has yet to shed light about his broader strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, where some 8,400 U.S. troops remain.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (right) meets with U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster in Kabul.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (right) meets with U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster in Kabul.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said recently that he needed several thousand more foreign troops in order to break a stalemate in the war with the Taliban.

Washington and Kabul have long accused Pakistan of failing to crack down on the Taliban and other Pakistan-based extremist groups fighting Afghan and foreign forces in Afghanistan.

"As all of us have hoped for many years, we have hoped that Pakistani leaders will understand that it is in their interest to go after these groups less selectively than they have in the past," McMaster said in an interview with Afghanistan's Tolo News on April 16. "And the best way to pursue their interest in Afghanistan and elsewhere is through diplomacy, not through the use of proxies that engage in violence."

Pakistan denies supporting militant groups and has accused Afghanistan, in turn, of allowing insurgents to cross from its territory into Pakistan to carry out attacks.

The Pakistani government statement added that the U.S. delegation included Lisa Curtis, a researcher with the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, who McMaster has hired to oversee South Asia affairs.

Analysts say the move could be a sign that Washington may toughen its stance on Islamabad.

In February, Curtis co-authored an article calling for Washington to "levy heavy costs on Pakistan for policies that help perpetuate terrorism in the region."

With reporting by Tolo News, AFP, Reuters, and Samaa TV

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