United States President Barack Obama has promised to consider Pakistan's concerns in post-war Afghanistan, but stayed mum on a call by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to end drone strikes.
Obama welcomed Sharif to the White House after releasing US$1.6 billion in aid - mostly for the military - that had been blocked amid high tensions over the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. With US forces preparing to pull out of Afghanistan next year, Obama pledged to brief Sharif fully and to work towards an Afghanistan that is "stable and secure, its sovereignty respected.
In a joint statement, Sharif and Obama urged the Taliban to engage in talks on a peace agreement with the Afghan Government - an initiative that quickly faltered after a first step in June. But on a discordant note, Sharif urged an end to the US campaign of drone strikes against extremists. The attacks have infuriated many Pakistanis who see them as violations of the country's sovereignty.
Despite the public statements, the Washington Post, citing top-secret CIA documents and Pakistani diplomatic memos it had obtained, reported that top officials in Pakistan's Government have endorsed the drone programme for years, if secretly, and routinely received classified briefings on strikes and casualty counts.
The Post reported that markings on the documents indicate that many of them were prepared by the CIA's Counterterrorism Centre specifically to be shared with Pakistan's Government. The documents, which detailed at least 65 strikes in Pakistan, are marked "top secret" but cleared for release to Pakistan.
- AFP, AP