Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged President Barack Obama to end drone strikes in Pakistan, touching on a sore subject just as relations between the two countries have been improving after years of suspicion over the US-led campaign in Afghanistan and the “War on Terror”.
“I also brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasizing the need to end … such strikes,” Sharif told reporters after meeting with Obama in the Oval Office on Wednesday.
With US forces preparing to pull out of Afghanistan next year, Obama pledged to brief Sharif fully and to work towards 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.
In a joint statement, the two leaders came together to urge the Taliban “to join the political process and enter into dialogue with the Afghan government.”
But to Sharif’s urgent call for an end to the US campaign of drone strikes, which have infuriated many Pakistanis who see them as a violation of the country’s sovereignty, Obama stayed silent.
The US president acknowledged tensions and “misunderstandings” between the two countries, and said the two leaders had pledged to work together on security issues in ways that “respect Pakistan’s sovereignty”.
“We committed to working together and making sure that rather than this being a source of tension between our two countries, this can be a source of strength for us working together,” Obama said.
The US has quietly restarted security assistance to Pakistan after freezing much of that aid during a period of strained relations following the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Amnesty International in a report Tuesday said that the United States may have violated international law by killing civilians.
It pointed to an attack in October 2012 in which it said that a 68-year-old grandmother was blown to pieces as she picked vegetables.
The rights group charged that Pakistan, despite its routine public protests, likely has given a quiet green light to the attacks in its remote areas.