WASHINGTON - The United States on Sunday shrugged off responsibility for scuttling Pakistani government's planned peace talks with the Taliban after an American drone strike killed the militant group's leader Hakimullah Mehsud, insisting that Washington has a shared interest in ending extremist violence in the region.
"The issue of whether to negotiate with TTP is an internal matter for Pakistan," a State Department official said, while commenting on Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan's condemnation of the strike as a "drone attack on the peace process".
The official still declined to confirm that Mehsud had been killed.
"More broadly, the US and Pakistan continue to have a vital, shared strategic interest in ending extremist violence so as to build a more prosperous, stable and peaceful region," he said.
"We have an ongoing dialogue with Pakistan regarding all aspects of the relationship and our shared interests, including security and counterterrorism cooperation, and we work together to address each others' concerns."
The attack came just eight days after a White House meeting in which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US President Obama pledged closer cooperation between the two countries. In Pakistan, those who expressed outrage over the strike included PTI leader Imran Khan, who said he would immediately press to have the government cut off NATO supply routes through northwest Pakistan.
Zahid Hussain, a military analyst based in Islamabad, said that much of Pakistan’s military and political establishment is privately “quite happy” that the country’s “No 1 most-wanted man” is dead. Neither the military nor the powerful intelligence service commented on Hakimullah Mehsud’s death. “They knew the peace talks were never going to go anywhere,” Hussain said.
Meanwhile, Pakistani officials told The New York Times that Mehsud’s body was damaged beyond recognition, after several missiles hit the vehicle in which he was traveling as it entered a compound in the village on Friday.