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McCain calls for Pakistani ‘cooperation’ against militancy

KABUL: US Senator John McCain visited Kabul Tuesday and warned neighbouring Pakistan that Washington was counting on its support to eliminate militancy.

The relationship between the US and Pakistan has been strained at times, with some in Washington believing Islamabad has not done enough to bring its influence to bear to persuade the Afghan Taliban to renounce violence.

McCain’s statement came one day after he and a bi-partisan Senate delegation visited Islamabad, where Pakistani officials said he reinforced the country’s essential role in regional stability.

“We made it very clear that we expect they (Pakistan) will cooperate with us, particularly against the Haqqani network and against terrorist organisations,” said McCain, chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, in Kabul.

Pakistan has received billions in US aid since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The Senate visit to Islamabad and Kabul comes as the US is gearing up to send more troops to Afghanistan to support Afghan forces straining to beat back the resurgent Taliban.

McCain called for more than just troops, however, urging “a strategy to win” the war which has dragged on for nearly 16 years and which even US generals concede is at a “stalemate”.

“The strongest nation on earth in this world should be able to win this conflict,” he said, calling for diplomatic efforts alongside a military push.

The US currently has 8,400 troops deployed under the NATO banner, and is thought to be mulling sending up to 4,000 more.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis has stressed his new approach, due to be presented to US President Donald Trump by mid-July, will have a broader “regional” emphasis, with no set timetable.

Trump has remained remarkably taciturn on Afghanistan, but this month gave Mattis authority to set troop numbers at whatever level he saw fit.

NATO, whose Operation Resolute Support numbers some 13,500 including the Americans, also promised last week to increase its presence in Afghanistan.



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