View Full Version : Pakistan Warns U.S. Commander Over Missile Stirkes

11-03-2008, 11:13 AM
Pakistan warns US commander over missile strikes



President Asif Ali Zardari warned the new US commander for Iraq and Afghanistan on Monday that missile strikes on Pakistani territory were "counterproductive" and detrimental to the 'war on terror.'

The most high-profile protest yet from Islamabad came as General David Petraeus made his first visit here since he took over the position last week, amid claims that it could signal a shift in strategy in Afghanistan.

"Continuing drone attacks on our territory, which result in loss of precious lives and property, are counterproductive and difficult to explain by a democratically-elected government," Zardari said.

"It is creating a credibility gap," the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan quoted him as saying.

The series of strikes by unmanned drones against suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants hiding in Pakistan's tribal badlands bordering Afghanistan have raised tensions between the two countries.

Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar earlier told Petraeus that Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected, warning that future incidents could affect the battle for hearts and minds.

"The frequent drone attacks could lead to generate anti-America sentiments as well as create outrage and uproar among the people," Mukhtar's department said in a statement.

Former Pakistani general and defence analyst Talat Masood said Petraeus' visit could not be underplayed -- and was a sign of the increasing focus on Pakistan and disquiet about strategy to combat insurgents in Afghanistan.

By appointing Petraeus, a counter-insurgency specialist widely credited for for progress in the Iraq conflict, Masood said the United States was signalling that it believes "it is not winning in Afghanistan".

"General Petraeus is a professional, he knows it is a different war, he understands the dynamics and he may prevail upon the current and the next US administration to review the policy," he added.

"He is probably the most suited person to bring a new and fresh approach in Afghanistan and in the tribal belt."

A US Embassy spokesman played down claims that Petraeus was here because of fears at a spiral of Islamist violence that has seen a wave of deadly Taliban and Al-Qaeda suicide attacks, civil unrest and a crippled economy.

"This was a regular scheduled visit. This is something that has been on the books for quite some time," acting US embassy spokesman Wes Robertson told AFP.

Petraeus, who was joined by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher and ambassador Anne Patterson, also met Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and military top brass.

Pakistan's security breakdown -- and what to do about it -- has become an election issue in the race for the White House, which culminates Tuesday when voters go to the polls.

Democratic hopeful Barack Obama has said that US forces should act against militants inside Pakistani territory, including Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, if Pakistan was "unable or unwilling to take them out."

But his Republican rival, John McCain, warned against such a strategy, instead urging cooperation and coordination between the two allies.

Bilateral tensions saw Patterson herself called in to the Pakistan foreign ministry last Wednesday to register its opposition to the missile strikes.

But just two days later, two separate strikes killed 32 mainly Al-Qaeda operatives, according to Pakistani security sources.

All the strikes have been blamed on US-led coalition forces or CIA-operated drones based in neighbouring Afghanistan, where US troops are engaged in escalating fighting with Taliban and other militants.

A US official said last week that Washington is looking at negotiating with "reconcilable" members of the Taliban in Afghanistan who are prepared to give up violence and respect the Afghan constitution.