Chuck Hagel Arrives in Islamabad for Bilateral Talks


Islamabad: Seeking to ease the tensions over controversial US drone strikes and discuss Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, the US defence secretary Chuck Hagel arrived Islamabad on Monday.

In the first visit by a Pentagon chief in about four years, Hagel will meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, new Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif and other top officials to review the bilateral cooperation in the war on terror and peace in Afghanistan following the withdrawal US-led NATO troops next year.

The relations between Islamabad and Washington have been nosedived over several issues including the controversial drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas along the Afghan border and suspected militant lodges inside the country.

Islamabad terms drone strikes against its dignity and sovereignty. On the other hand, Washington terms these strikes a successful weapon in war against terrorism.

Pentagon spokesperson Car Woog on Sunday told the reporters that Hagel “looks forward to continuing candid and productive conversations about important security partnership and how to address common threats”.

The visit was affirmed Pentagon chief’s aides believe that the blocked NATO supplies to Afghanistan would recommence following the end of anti-drone sit-ins, staged by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, and its coalition partners on the NATO supply routes.

The anti-drone protests gained momentum last month after a US drone targeted a seminary in Hangu – in its first-ever attack of its nature in KPK. The attack reportedly killing six people including three top commanders of Haqqani Network.

During the campaign to prevent the NATO shipments from entering Afghanistan, the activists forcibly searched the documents of drivers and thrashed some of them on resisting.

To protect the identity of drivers ferrying NATO shipments, the US officials have temporarily halted the shipments through the Torkham gate pass.

A US official in Kabul on Sunday claimed that the Washington has lifted the suspension of NATO shipment through Pakistan because the protests had stopped.

US defence secretary earlier visited Afghanistan at a time when relations between Washington and Kabul are strained over a proposed security deal covering the role of US soldiers who remain in the country after 2014.

Washington wants Afghan President Hamid Karzai to rubber-stamp the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which will allow some US troops to stay in the country counterterrorism and training missions following the conclusion of NATO combat mission next year, but Karzai is stalling the deal and has reportedly introduced new conditions to sign the agreement.