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Mattis, Tillerson Met Australian Ministers Over Anti-Terror Fight

The high-ranking U.S officials met with their Australian counterparts to discuss the fight against terrorism and ways to stabilize Afghanistan, among others.

In their first joint appearance abroad, U.S Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday pledged unity with longtime ally Australia in fighting Islamic extremists who seek to intimidate the West.

According to the Associated Press, Mattis and Tillerson spoke alongside their Australian counterparts at the opening of a joint meeting expected to touch on a range of subjects including defeating Daesh, stabilizing Afghanistan and dealing with North Korea's nuclear threats.

In her opening remarks, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said "countering terrorism" would be high on the meeting's agenda.

Bishop said: "We meet a day after the shocking events in London and I know that we've spoken to our counterpart (British) Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to express our deepest condolences to the British people and the British government for yet another barbaric terrorist attack.

"And the issue of countering terrorism will be high on our agenda today. The global terrorist threat is ever evolving, we've seen brutal attacks in a number of European cities, we've thwarted attacks here in Australia, and so we want to discuss with you, the links back into the Middle East, the role we're playing with you in Iraq and Syria and also in Afghanistan.

"We are united in our resolve to defeat ISIS (Daesh), the Islamic State terrorist organization and its ilk."

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said her government was concerned by IS (Daesh) linkages in Asia and the Pacific.

Payne said: "For Australia, from our perspective today it's important that we do discuss Daesh's links in Southeast Asia, violent extremist organizations and the risk that returning foreign fighters who may endeavor to resume positions in their own countries might pose in this region. They'll come back with battlefield skills, they'll come back with hardened ideology, they'll come back angry, frustrated, and we need to be very aware of that."

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the attack in London underscores the importance of "stepping up efforts to fight terrorism."

Speaking to CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday after attackers used a van and large knives to kill seven people late Saturday night in the heart of London, Stoltenberg said: "What we see is that terrorists want to change the way we live. They want to attack our open and free societies."

"The best response is to stand up for our open, free societies and continue to live the lives we want to live. Because then the terrorists will lose."

"What happened overnight in London just underlines the importance of stepping up efforts to fight terrorism. NATO has an important role to play. Our biggest military operation ever, our presence in Afghanistan, is about fighting terrorism and preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists and we are in Afghanistan as a response to a terrorist attack in the United States. 9/11 2001.

"But what we decided at the meeting last week was to step up our efforts by joining the global coalition to fight ISIL (Daesh) and also to provide more guided support with our surveillance planes. And the NATO allies are in many different ways contributing to very important but a fight that will take time to defeat ISIL and extremism," Stoltenberg said.

"It also underlies the importance of doing many different things. We need many tools. We need to fight the ideology, extremism, political diplomatic means but we also need military tools as we see for instance in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria."

[Source: Tolo News, Kabul, 05Jun17]

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