• Obama reassures Pakistan on Afghanistan, not drones

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    WASHINGTON, D.C.: United States (US) President Barack Obama promised on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) to consider Pakistan’s concerns in post-war Afghanistan, but stayed mum on a call by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to end drone strikes.

    Obama welcomed Sharif to the White House after releasing $1.6 billion in aid—mostly for the military—that had been blocked amid high tensions over the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

    With US forces preparing to pull out of Afghanistan next year, Obama pledged to brief Sharif fully and to work toward an Afghanistan that is “stable and secure, its sovereignty respected.”

    “I’m confident that, working together, we can achieve a goal that is good for Afghanistan, but also helps to protect Pakistan over the long term,” Obama told reporters at the Oval Office.

    Many Afghans view Pakistan suspiciously due to its past support for the Taliban regime, which was toppled in the US-led invasion that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    In a joint statement, Sharif and Obama urged the Taliban to engage in talks on a peace agreement with the Afghan government—an initiative that quickly faltered after a first step in June.

    But on a discordant note, Sharif urged an end to the US campaign of drone strikes against extremists. The attacks have infuriated many Pakistanis who see them as violations of the country’s sovereignty.

    Sharif called for greater counterterrorism cooperation with Washington but said: “I also brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes.”

    Obama did not mention drones and the two leaders did not take questions.

    In their statement, Obama and Sharif “stressed that our enduring partnership is based on the principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

    Despite the public statements, The Washington Post said it had obtained secret documents that confirmed widespread suspicions that Pakistan tacitly approved US strikes and sometimes even picked targets.

    The newspaper covered several years of frequent attacks until 2011, well before Sharif’s election in May.

    Amnesty International said in a report on Tuesday that the United States may have violated international law by killing civilians.

    The White House responded by defending drone strikes, saying that it takes great care to avoid civilian deaths and that the remote-controlled attacks are more precise than other methods to target extremists.

    AFP

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