New US policy is a 'game-changer', says Ashraf Ghani

"Pakistan is important, as you know, regionally to the U.S. Our security relationships are so important regionally to our joint goals of providing peace and security for the region", Tillerson said during handshake with Abbasi before opening formal talks.

"The secretary says he's also pushing Pakistan to deny safe haven to the Taliban and other terrorist groups", NPR's Michele Kelemen, who's traveling with Tillerson, tells our Newscast unit.

Following the secretary of state's surprise meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani-which was only reported after the fact-the US Embassy released a photo of the two men seated together in a room with large TV screens, a clock, and a fire alarm visible behind them, giving the location as the capital of Kabul.

"I think the USA has made it clear in terms of our support for Afghanistan, support for a sovereign, unified, and democratic Afghanistan, charting a path to peace, prosperity, and self-reliance".

Tillerson has said USA aid may be cut if Pakistan does not act more proactively against the groups, and Islamabad is jeopardizing Pakistan's future by not pushing out militant groups that range across the border into Afghanistan.

USA officials have long accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye or assisting the Afghan Taliban and the allied Haqqani network. The rescue operation was carried out by the Pakistan military on an intelligence tip from the United States.

Removing the military-style clock and large fire alarm might have been an attempt by Afghanistan's government to hide the meeting's location.

USA and Pakistani sources say Tillerson's visit to Islamabad will be followed later in the year by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as Trump seeks to send a tough message to the wayward Cold War ally.

Ghani is on a one-day working visit to India.

Relations between uneasy allies United States and Pakistan have frayed in recent years, with Washington accusing Islamabad of turning a blind eye or helping Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network militants who stage attacks in Afghanistan. He said the bilateral cooperation in security between the two countries should be enhanced.

The visiting dignitary also met his Indian counterpart Ram Nath Kovind earlier in the day.

  • Joey Payne