Washington tells Islamabad: Drone attacks to continue until Pakistan ‘satisfies’ US

ISLAMABAD –  The United States has made it clear to Pakistan that drone attacks inside the Pakistani territory will continue until Islamabad “satisfies” Washington of indiscriminate action against all the militant groups, The Nation has learnt.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry said that the US rejected Pakistan’s protests against the drone strikes, saying Pakistan would have to “earn” an end to such attacks – by taking action against all the militant outfits.

Citing recent contacts with Washington, an official said: “They [the US] believe we are sheltering some militant groups and are playing a double game. They want us to satisfy them for an end to the drone attacks. It doesn’t seem easy to satisfy them.”

He added: “We have told them [the US] about the resentment against the drone attacks in Pakistan. People want military reaction against the drone strikes, which could worsen the Pak-US tension. They [the US] have not given any positive response so far.”

Last week, Pakistan had warned that the drone attacks by the US inside the Pakistani territory could prove detrimental to the Pak-US partnership.

This came after a US drone strike in the Kurram Agency killed two people.

Reports said two missiles hit a house in Spin Tal area.

The foreign office reacted sharply to the strike warning “such unilateral actions, as that of today (January 24), are detrimental to the spirit of cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism.”

Pakistan and the US made conflicting claims on the drone attack in the Kurram Agency by the US forces based in Afghanistan.

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Pakistan sticks to its stance that the US drone strike targeted an Afghan refugee camp near Kurram Agency.

However, US embassy spokesperson Richard Snelsire denied Pakistan’s assertion.

“The claim in an MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] statement that [the] US forces struck an Afghan refugee camp in Kurram Agency yesterday [January 24] is false,” he maintained.

Since 2004, the US government has attacked numerous targets in northwest Pakistan using unmanned aerial vehicles or drones controlled by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Activities Division.

Most of these attacks are on targets in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border.

These strikes began during the administration of the United States President, George W Bush, and increased substantially under his successor Barack Obama.

Pakistan and the US have been struggling to reconcile after President Donald Trump’s controversial tweet, in which he announced to suspend aid to Pakistan for allegedly deceiving the US in the war on terror.

Pakistan rejected the US allegations and questioned Trump’s claim of giving $33 billion to Pakistan as security assistance.

Islamabad said it had fought the anti-terror war largely from its own resources for the sake of the country’s and global peace.

The uneasy allies returned to the talks’ table this month when Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Alice Wells visited Islamabad and held talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua.

Later, US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said military-to-military dialogue between the two countries was the right approach to improve the Pak-US relationship.

The top US general said he was not “giving up” on improving ties with Pakistan.

Another official at the foreign ministry said Pakistan had asked the US to share intelligence instead of directly targeting the militants in the tribal belt.

“There is visibly a trust deficit [between Pakistan and the US].  They [the US] avoid sharing [intelligence] details with us suspecting we will help the militants instead. We are trying to defuse this misunderstanding,” he said.

The official said the US had once again asked Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network and “prove” that Pakistan was “sincere” in the war against terror.

“We have counted our sacrifices to convince them,” he mentioned. 

Defence analyst and former Lt General Naeem Khalid Lodhi said the US drone attacks were against the international laws.

He said Pakistan reserved the right to respond to such strikes.

General Lodhi said such attacks challenged Pakistan’s sovereignty.

“The US has made it a habit to strike at will. This is unacceptable and should not be tolerated,” he added.



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