Hagel descends on Pakistan amid rising tensions

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Crescent International

Safar 06, 1435 2013-12-09

Daily News Analysis

by Crescent International

Droning innocents to death in Pakistan is official US policy. This is implemented by US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel on behalf of Barack Obama who has escalated drone strikes alarmingly since becoming president. Hagel was in Islamabad today to insist the drone attacks would continue while the people of Pakistan are adamantly opposed to them. There have been protests for several weeks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to get such attacks stopped.

Islamabad, Crescent-online
December 09, 2013, 14:57 EST

The visit to Islamabad by US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel today has done little to assuage anger in Pakistan over the continued US drone attacks.

Hagel flew in from Kabul to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as well as the new army chief, General Raheel Sharif (no relation of Nawaz) to try and reduce what one US official admitted was “some friction in the relationship.” Hagel wanted to address these concerns “head on,” according to the US source.

The Pakistan foreign ministry said in a statement that Sharif raised his concerns about continued US drone strikes in Pakistan directly with Hagel telling him that they were “counterproductive”. He had made the same plea during his meeting with US President Barack Obama on October 23 in Washington, clearly with little effect.

On November 1, a US drone strike killed the Pakistani Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud and four of his comrades near his compound in North Waziristan. Mehsud had just emerged from a meeting with other Taliban leaders to consider Pakistan’s offer of peace talks.

The killing of Mehsud also killed any prospects of such talks. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan described the US drone strike a deliberate attempt to sabotage the peace talks. A delegation of senior ulama was about to head out to Miran Shah the following day to hold talks with the Taliban.

“The prime minister...conveyed Pakistan's deep concern [to Hagel] over continuing US drone strikes, stressing that drone strikes were counterproductive to our efforts to combat terrorism and extremism on an enduring basis,” the Pakistan foreign ministry said in a statement.

Recent reports by the United Nations as well as Amnesty International have pointed out that drone strikes have caused many civilian casualties. Both reports were scathing in their criticism of US policy.

While Sharif has been talking about the drone strikes being “counterproductive,” his government has taken no practical steps to stop them. Instead, the Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI), led by Imran Khan has led the campaign to exert pressure on Islamabad and Washington to stop this murderous campaign.

PTI activists with support from its ally the Jamaat-e Islami in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province have been checking containers heading to Afghanistan at the Torkham border to ensure no weapons are taken in.

The activists have established their own checkpoints on Peshawar’s ring road that leads to the Torkham border with Afghanistan. Trucks that are not carrying lethal goods are permitted to go through.

Last week, the US was forced to announce suspension of operations taking military equipment out of Afghanistan through Pakistan because of security concerns. The PTI declared this a tactical victory.

Hagel is on a tour of the region and arrived unannounced in Kabul yesterday but Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to meet him. Instead, Hagel met the Afghan defence minister. Karzai is adamant that the US must give an undertaking not to carry out any raids on Afghan homes before he would sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) under which US troops would be allowed to stay in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 deadline.

The US is desperate to get the deal signed while Karzai has dug in his heels.

On December 7, Hagel attended the Manama Dialogue Summit in Bahrain at which he tried to assure his Arabian hosts that the US was not about to cut and run, following the US interim nuclear deal with Iran. Hagel called the neighbourhood “dangerous and combustible” with a straight face.

It is dangerous and combustible because of massive US military presence, unquestioning US support for the Zionist regime and maintaining dictatorial regimes in the Middle East against the wishes of the people.

If the people were allowed to choose their own leaders, there would be peace in the region.

From Islamabad, Hagel is due to visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia, two staunch US allies and no paragons of freedom. These family-ruled kingdoms oppress their people and in one—Saudi Arabia—women are not even allowed to drive cars.

END

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