Drone attacks can break partnership, US told

Islamabad slams strike in Kurram Agency

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Wednesday warned that the drone attacks by the United States inside the Pakistani territory could prove detrimental to the Pak-US partnership.

Earlier in the day, a US drone strike in Kurram Agency killed two people.

Reports said two missiles hit a house in Spin Tal at the bordering area of the Kurram and North Waziristan tribal agencies.

The Foreign Office reacted sharply to the strike, saying “such unilateral actions, as that of today (January 24), are detrimental to the spirit of cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism.”

A foreign ministry statement said Pakistan had also been stressing the need for early repatriation of Afghan refugees as their presence in Pakistan helped Afghan terrorists “to melt and morph among them.”

Pakistan, it said, “condemns” the drone strike in Kurram Agency carried out by the Resolute Support Mission, which targeted an Afghan refugee camp.

“Pakistan has continued to emphasise to the US the importance of sharing actionable intelligence so that appropriate action is taken against terrorists by our forces within our territory,” the statement said.

Staff Reporter from Peshawar adds: The missiles were fired on the house of Ihsan alias Khwarai situated in Dapa Mamozai area of Spin Tall Tehsil in Hangu.

The attack resulted in the death of two persons identified as Ihsan and his friend Nasir Mehsud.

It was not the first strike of its kind this year, as earlier on January 17 a US drone had fired two missiles at a house in Lower Kurram Agency killing two alleged militants. Another attack was also carried out on December 18 in the same area where a mosque was targeted.

On December 26 a US drone attack also targeted a compound in Mata Sangar area near Afghan border in Kurram Agency in which two persons were killed.

According to AFP, the drone hit killed a militant from the Haqqani network allied to Afghanistan’s Taliban. The pre-dawn strike took place more than 50 kilometres from the Afghan border.

A spokesman for the UN’s refugee agency told AFP there are no refugee camps in the tribal areas, and no sign of a camp can be seen in pictures from the site.

The US embassy in Islamabad declined to comment and there was no immediate comment from NATO forces in Kabul.

A senior government official in Kurram told AFP that the drone fired one missile at a two-room compound, killing the militant and destroying the building.

He named the dead man as Nasir Mehmood, alias Ihsanullah Khurya, and described him as an Afghan national and a “mid-level commander of the Haqqani network”.

“The US drone remained in the air even after the strike and was flying there for almost 15 minutes,” the official said.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials in the area also said the US had carried out a drone strike, but according to their information the drone fired two missiles and killed two militants of the Haqqani network in the compound.

A source close to the Haqqani group confirmed that at least one mid-level Afghan commander had been killed.

Pakistan and the US have been at loggerheads after President Donald Trump’s controversial tweet in which he announced to suspend aid to Pakistan for allegedly deceiving the US in the war on terror.

Pakistan rejected US allegations and questioned Trump’s claim of giving $33 billion to Pakistan as security assistance.

Islamabad said it had fought the anti-terror war largely from its own resources for the sake of the country’s and global peace.

As tension escalated, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said the Pak-US intelligence sharing and defence cooperation had been suspended. The US denied the claim.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said Pak-US alliance was “over” after the US “betrayal”.

This month, Pakistan and the US returned to the talks’ table after tension rose to unprecedented level, threatening to break the alliance altogether.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Alice Wells visited Islamabad and held talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua. Wells termed Pakistan’s support critical to the success of the US strategy for Afghanistan.

She said Pakistan was an immediate neighbour of Afghanistan and important country of the region. Wells underlined “the need for strengthening intelligence cooperation between the two sides to improve coordination in counter-terrorism efforts.”

Later, Chairman US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said military-to-military dialogue between the two countries was the right approach to improve the Pak-US relationship.

The top US general said he was not “giving up” on improving ties with Pakistan.

This month, Pakistan and the US had agreed on a “carrot-and-stick” policy to resolve the Afghanistan issue.

Officials said it had been decided to negotiate with the Taliban militants who were ready to talk and continue the operation against the pro-violence groups.

Since 2004, the US government has attacked “thousands” of targets in northwest Pakistan using unmanned aerial vehicles or drones controlled by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Activities Division.

Most of these attacks are on targets in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border.

These strikes began during the administration of the United States President, George W Bush, and increased substantially under his successor Barack Obama.

Surveys have shown that the strikes were deeply unpopular in Pakistan, where they contributed to a negative perception of the US.

The Americans have publicly claimed that civilian deaths from the attacks were minimal.

Leaked US documents revealed that the vast majority of people killed have not been the intended targets, with approximately 13 percent of deaths being the intended targets, 81 percent being other militants, and six percent civilians.

The identities of collateral victims were usually not investigated by the US forces, who systematically counted each male military-age corpse as an “enemy killed in action” unless there was clear proof to the contrary, as long as the male was in a militant facility at the time.

Pakistan has repeatedly demanded an end to the US strikes in the tribal areas where the Pakistani military has been fighting militants and other non-state armed groups since June 2014.

Missiles launched from these high-tech, unmanned aircraft have hit homes, cars, schools, shops and gatherings.

Those killed by drones include high-ranking militant leaders – figures such as Abu Yahya al Libi, Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command and Baitullah Mehsud, commander of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

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