Pakistan prime minister urges Obama to end drone strikes

WASHINGTON Wed Oct 23, 2013 6:51pm EDT

1 of 6. U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington October 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday urged U.S. President Barack Obama to end drone strikes in Pakistan, touching on a sore subject just as relations between the two countries improve after years of suspicion over Afghanistan and the U.S. counterterrorism fight.

"I ... brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes," Sharif told reporters after meeting with Obama in the Oval Office.

Relations were badly strained following the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan where he was in hiding. But they appear to be on the mend as the United States prepares to pull forces out of Afghanistan in 2014.

The United States has quietly restarted security assistance to Pakistan after freezing aid during the period of soured relations, when Washington frequently voiced complaints about the ties of the Pakistani intelligence service to militant groups active in Afghanistan.

A series of major setbacks in recent years included a 2011 NATO air strike that mistakenly killed Pakistani border guards and another incident that year in which a CIA contractor killed two men on the streets of Lahore.

Obama acknowledged tensions and "misunderstandings" between the two countries. He said he and Sharif had pledged to work together on security issues in ways that "respect Pakistan's sovereignty."

"We committed to working together and making sure that rather than this being a source of tension between our two countries, this can be a source of strength for us working together," Obama said.

Sharif was elected prime minister in June in a historic election that marked Pakistan's first civilian transfer of power after the completion of a full term by a democratically elected government. He is the first Pakistani leader to visit the White House in five years.

"To see a peaceful transition of one democratically elected government to another was an enormous milestone for Pakistan," Obama said.

Much of U.S. security aid to Pakistan is intended to bolster the ability of its military to counter militants in semi-autonomous tribal areas.

For fiscal year 2014, which began on October 1, Obama has requested $1.162 billion from Congress for Pakistan, including $857 million in civilian aid and $305 million in security assistance.

The U.S. use of armed drones to attack suspected militants in Pakistan has long been controversial although the number of incidents has dropped in recent months.

The issue came up again this week when Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused the United States of breaking international law by killing civilians in missile and drone strikes intended for militants in Pakistan and Yemen.

White House spokesman Jay Carney called it "a hard fact of war" that U.S. strikes sometimes result in civilian casualties but said drone strikes do so far less than conventional attacks. The United States takes pains to make sure any such strikes conform to domestic and international law, he said.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Jim Loney)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (29)
AlkalineState wrote:
The same government that was hiding Osama Bin Laden and currently plays host to a number of Taliban and Jihadist camps…. lodges complaint about U.S. use of force against terrorists.

Don’t. Harbor. Terrorists.

Don’t walk with them in the desert. Don’t elect them. Don’t wipe their asses for them. Stay away from them. The drones are coming. Distance is the best resistance.

Oct 23, 2013 5:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
mpatter wrote:
Not possible!

Granted that it is nothing short of assassination and against all norms of international laws. However, since the target of these assassinations do not follow these norms, we can ignore them too. When it comes to terrorizing people, we can beat al qaeda at their own game.

Oct 23, 2013 5:12pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Mott wrote:
Absolutely.

First stop the $1.6B aid.

Then stop the drone strikes. They go together.

Oct 23, 2013 5:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus