WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary James Mattis said on Tuesday Washington would try “one more time” to work with Islamabad on the Afghanistan front before President Donald Trump turned to options to address Pakistan’s alleged support for militant groups.

“We need to try one more time to make this strategy work with them, by, with and through the Pakistanis, and if our best efforts fail, the President is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary,” the defence secretary said at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

According to sources in Washington, the likely Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding US drone strikes and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-Nato ally.

In a separate Senate hearing on Tuesday, the top US military officer said he believed the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had ties to militant groups.

“It is clear to me that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups,” General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2017