Monday, April 18, 2011

Pakistan urges US to stop drone strikes

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani asked
the US to end its use of drones in his country
© AFP Peter Parks
AFP

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani urged the United States Monday to end its drone strikes in Pakistan and said Washington should share intelligence better to allow Islamabad to wage its own war on terror.

Speaking in Pakistan's lower house, the National Assembly, after meeting US House Speaker John Boehner in Islamabad, Gilani said: "I told him that you will have to respect our political and military efforts if you want to succeed" in combating insurgents.

Boehner was leading a six-member congressional delegation on a two-day visit and also met Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and US Ambassador Cameron Munter.

"I told him that the US should transfer drone technology to Pakistan if it is really against militants," Gilani said in a televised address to the house, without elaborating on what this might entail.


Later, a statement issued by the prime minister's office quoted Gilani as saying that the US should refrain from drone attacks and instead share credible intelligence to enable Pakistan to take action against terrorists itself.

Washington has massively ramped up its drone campaign against militants in areas near the Afghan border, and argues they are highly effective in the war against al-Qaeda and its Islamist allies.

Missile attacks doubled in the area last year, with more than 100 drone strikes killing over 670 people in 2010 compared with 45 strikes that killed 420 in 2009, according to an AFP tally.

But the policy is deeply unpopular among the Pakistani public, who see military action on Pakistani soil as a breach of national sovereignty and say some attacks have killed innocent civilians.

The Pakistan government, which has frequently condemned the attacks in public, is accused of giving its tacit consent in private to the US campaign.

The New York Times reported last week that Pakistan told the United States to rein in drone strikes and slash the number of CIA agents and special forces operating in the conservative, nuclear-armed Muslim country.

"This is our war and we will fight our own enemy," Gilani said Monday.

"We are the frontline state. We are facing a difficult situation," he added, telling lawmakers he said to Boehner that stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan "will ensure stability in the entire world".

Predator drone releases hellfire
Wikimedia Commons image
"A strong US-Pakistan relationship is vital to the interests of both of our countries," Boehner, the top Republican in the US Congress and third-ranking US elected official, said in a statement released by his office in Washington.

"While the relationship between our two countries has seen its challenges, we discussed the importance of working through these issues and renewing our partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect."

Boehner, who is second in line for the US presidency behind Vice President Joe Biden, said he and five other US lawmakers had "frank and productive discussions" with top civilian and military officials.

"We recognize that the Pakistani military and the Pakistani people have made great sacrifices in recent years in the struggle against extremism and terrorism," he said.

"Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies have made Pakistan a target, and the Pakistani nation has suffered deeply as a result. We appreciate the efforts of the Pakistani military and the sacrifices of those troops and the Pakistani people."

The delegation included Republican Representatives Mac Thornberry, Mike Conaway, Tom Rooney and Joe Heck -- all members of the House Armed Services Committee -- and Democratic Representative Dan Boren, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

© AFP -- Published at Activist Post with license


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