DTN News - DEFENSE NEWS: Pakistan Seeks End To Drones
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - March 21, 2012: A Pakistan parliamentary commission called for the U.S. to end drone strikes on its territory and to formally apologize for killing 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
The demands were made as part of a debate in Parliament Tuesday over how the country should pursue relations with the U.S. in the wake of public anger over the unintentional killing of the Pakistan soldiers by firing from U.S. helicopters.
Pakistan's government retaliated last year by stopping the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from using its territory to provision troops in Afghanistan, forcing NATO to route more of its equipment and other supplies through Central Asia.
Islamabad said it wouldn't reopen the supply routes until Parliament had a chance to re-evaluate the country's relations with the U.S. High-level military and civilian visits to Pakistan by U.S. officials have been suspended in recent months until Parliament can conclude its debate, which has been delayed many times.
White House and State Department officials said they were awaiting the full parliamentary process before responding to requests for an apology. Washington is waiting to hear from the Pakistani government about how they would like to move forward, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Although U.S. officials say much routine business, including civilian aid projects and lower-level military contacts, has continued unaffected, the tensions have destabilized bilateral relations at a time when the U.S. was hoping Pakistan could play a role in helping develop peace talks with the Afghan Taliban.
The level of public anger in Pakistan toward the U.S. has been rising. Many Pakistanis oppose drone strikes against Taliban militants, which they believe kill large numbers of civilians.
U.S. officials deny sizable civilian casualties, and the Pakistan military says it has shared intelligence occasionally on strike targets.
The NATO raid in November along the Afghan border that killed the Pakistani soldiers sent relations to a new low. The Obama administration's failure to apologize, despite calls from the U.S. State Department to do so, further aggravated the strained relationship.