Mattis Trip Continues South Asia Strategy Dialogue
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis’ trip to the Middle East and Central Asia will continue the dialogue about the South Asia strategy President Donald J. Trump announced in August.
The defense secretary is in Egypt today and will journey on to Jordan, Pakistan and Kuwait before returning.
Mattis said wants to take stock of the security situation in the region. “I'm also visiting some key security partners, or key security arenas out there,” he told reporters traveling with him.
In Egypt, the secretary will meet with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Defense Minister Gen. Sedki Sobhi. The men will discuss operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the terror attack ISIS launched against a mosque in the Sinai and ongoing Egyptian efforts against violent extremism. “We appreciate Egypt's counterterrorism cooperation, I think you're all aware that it's grown over the last year,” Mattis said. “I think any kind of security buildup in Egypt, where -- over a third of the Arab people live is in Egypt – is good for the region as a whole.”
The secretary will move on to Aqaba, Jordan where he will participate in a conference designed to coordinate operates against violent extremism. This conference will concentrate on West Africa. Previous conferences -- also sponsored by Jordan’s King Abdullah II -- examined operations in East Africa, Southeast Asia and the Balkans.
“There's more than just West African nations there, there's also nations that support them, such as the United States,” Mattis said. In conjunction with partner nations, the United States works “by, with and through” African nations to improve regional security.
This will be Mattis’ first trip to Pakistan as defense secretary -- he has visited the country numerous times previously. “The U.S. remains committed to a pragmatic relationship that expands … cooperation on shared interests while reinforcing President Trump's call for action against terrorist safe havens,” the secretary said.
He will also detail the South Asia strategy to them personally. The secretary has already met face-to-face with leaders in India and Afghanistan and with NATO allies in Brussels to discuss the plan, and this visit is part of “a continued dialogue, in what our vision is for the Afghan peace process,” he said. Specifically, Mattis said, he will speak with Pakistani leaders about reconciliation in Afghanistan and what role Pakistan can play.
The trip ends in Kuwait, where he will have talks with America’s close ally, which has made an “outsized” contribution to peace in the region, the secretary said. He will reiterate America’s commitment to Kuwait’s security and the security of partners in the Persian Gulf.
The secretary will discuss the rift in the Gulf Cooperation Council. He said Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah has been “just stalwart, in trying to bring … these countries back together.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)