DUBAI (Reuters) - Pakistan’s spy chief will call for an end to U.S. military drone strikes in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and push for a sharing of technology and intelligence during a visit to Washington this week, the country’s interior minister said on Monday.
But indications are that Islamabad’s demands for a halt to drone attacks may receive a less-than-sympathetic hearing from top Obama administration officials.
Pakistani Lieutenant-General Zaheer ul-Islam’s visit to meet CIA director General David Petraeus will be his first since he became head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in March and follows a thaw in relations between Pakistan and the United States.
Pakistan, however, continues to insist that U.S. drone strikes — which it says are a breach of its territorial sovereignty — must end.
“We will push for no drones. If we (Pakistan and the U.S.) are partners, we should sit together and have a common strategy. However, in this regional war there has been no common strategy against a common enemy,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told a news conference in Dubai.
“I hope the visit of the director of the ISI will have good results. There is some dialogue going on as we speak,” he said.
The United States has given no sign it is willing to halt the drone strikes.
In fact, U.S. officials signal there will be little, if any, change in U.S. counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan and the region.
“Let’s not lose sight of the issue here. Al-Qaeda and its militant allies are violating Pakistan’s sovereignty by using its territory to plot and carry out attacks,” a U.S. official said. “Aggressive counterterrorism operations are what’s frustrating al-Qaeda and pushing their leadership to the brink.”
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also reiterated U.S. concerns about the extent of Pakistan efforts to confront militants — including the Haqqani network and the Pakistani Taliban, known as the TTP — in loosely-governed tribal areas along the country’s mountainous border with Afghanistan.
“Everyone wants the Pakistanis to accept more responsibility for taking on al-Qaeda, TTP and the Haqqanis. The problem is they have yet to show the capability — or willingness — to take effective action” in Pakistan’s tribal areas, said the U.S. official.
The official added that while there was “always room for dialogue on how to defeat terrorist entities in the region,” Pakistani authorities “need to offer some concrete ideas on how it does more against the violent Haqqanis, rather than point fingers.”
But Pakistan’s Malik told journalists: “Both countries have to find a midway (pont) ... This of course means intelligence-sharing. Also, give us the technology and we will use it. The U.S. has given us F-16 (fighter jets). Are we misusing it?”
Malik gave no further details, but Pakistan has long asked the United States to provide its military with its own drones for use in its tribal areas.
Reporting by Praveen Menon in Dubai and Mark Hosenball in Washington; editing by Gary Crosse