US Def Sec in Pakistan to discuss drones, NATO blockade

Chuck HagelUS Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel (Reuters image)

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Pakistan on Monday to discuss security partnership with the Pakistani leadership amidst blockade of NATO supply trucks and huge political resentment over the CIA-operated drone strikes.

This is the first visit to Pakistan by an American Defence Secretary in nearly four years. Hagel will called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif besides meeting other senior Pakistani officials and discuss security issues and Afghan situation.

He is also likely to meet new Pakistan Army chief Raheel Sharif.

During the meetings, Pakistan is likely to raise the issue of drone strikes.

Protests held by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province had prompted the US to stop the shipments from Torkham Gate through Karachi last week, due to worries about the safety of the truckers.

Pakistan has termed the drone attacks a violation of its sovereignty.

US President Barack Obama has defended the drone strikes as an effective, lawful tool used with restraint to target suspected al-Qaeda militants.

But human rights groups and Pakistani politicians say the missile attacks have killed innocent civilians and must stop.

The Pak-US ties had hit rock bottom in 2011 following the unilateral operation that killed Osama bin Laden and the accidental killing of two dozen soldiers in US air strikes along the Afghan border in November 2011.

Pakistan reacted by stopping NATO supply routes and it finally reopened the routes after the US apologised. The rift led the US to sever most aid to Pakistan for some time, but relations were restored in July 2012.

Since then, the US has delivered over USD 1.15 billion in security assistance to Pakistan.

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