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WASHINGTON: Hours after the meeting between Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and US Vice President Mike Pence on Friday, the United States reminded Pakistan that it was prepared to take necessary steps to protect its personnel in Afghanistan if Islamabad did not stop cross-border attacks.

The warning, given at a special news briefing on Friday afternoon, followed the unscheduled Abbasi-Pence meeting at the US Naval Observatory, the vice president’s official residence.

Sources briefed on this one-on-one meeting told reporters that Mr Pence also focused on this issue [Afghan policy] in the 30 minutes that he spent with the Pakistani leader.

At 3pm — almost four and a half hours after the meeting — senior Trump administration officials held a special briefing for Washington-based journalists to convey their dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s Afghan policy.

Pence urges Abbasi to ‘do more’ against Taliban

“Six months after the announcement of the South Asia Policy, Pakistan is yet to take the kind of decisive actions that the US is seeking,” one of the officials said. “We are continuing to look for real actions and not word on the Taliban and the Haqqani sanctuaries,” the official added.

The official demanded “cooperative action” against terrorists from Pakistan but warned that the United States was prepared to take its own measures to protect its personnel in Afghanistan if Islamabad did not.

The official did not give a timeline but stressed the urgency to prevent alleged cross-border attacks on US and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.

“It’s Pakistan choice in which direction it wants to take the future of the relationship,” said the official, adding that the US was still engaging Pakistani leaders and was willing to address its concerns.

The official said that US President Donald Trump was constantly monitoring progress on the South Asia policy he launched in August and wanted Pakistan to do more than “the bare minimum” it’s doing now.

“President has made it clear that he is not satisfied with the actions Pakistan has taken so far. We have communicated what we mean by decisive action,” the official added.

Those briefed on the Abbasi-Pence meeting said Mr Pence too devoted much of his talk to Afghanistan, emphasising the need for immediate action from Pakistan to stop cross-border attacks.

AFP adds: During the meeting on Friday, Mr Pence told Prime Minister Abbasi that Pakistan “must do more” against the Taliban and other militants.

“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 in a statement on Saturday.

“Pakistan could and should work closer with the United States,” Mr Pence said.According to Washington, there is little sign that Islamabad has made a decision to end its support for the Taliban.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2018