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Drone kills four IS men before US senators visit South Waziristan

Updated July 04, 2017

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SOUTH WAZIRISTAN: Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Senator John McCain and other members of the US delegation attend a briefing during their visit to South Waziristan on Monday.—INP
SOUTH WAZIRISTAN: Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Senator John McCain and other members of the US delegation attend a briefing during their visit to South Waziristan on Monday.—INP

ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR: Hours before a bipartisan US Senate delegation visited South Waziristan Agency on Monday, a CIA-operated drone carried out a missile attack in a village of the tribal region, killing a suspected militant leader.

According to sources, the US drone fired two missiles at a vehicle carrying ‘commander’ Pir Agha of the militant Islamic State group and his three aides in Marghalan village, killing all four men on the spot.

The delegation led by Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, while meeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad and visiting South Waziristan underscored the importance of continued cooperation between the US and Pakistan for regional peace.

The delegation is visiting Pakistan for discussions on bilateral relationship, particularly the counterterrorism cooperation aspect and the situation in Afghanistan and efforts for peace and reconciliation there.

McCain says trip helped understand ‘remaining challenges’

In a recorded video statement released by the Inter-Services Public Relations, Senator McCain during his visit to South Waziristan said the trip helped understand “challenges, successes and remaining challenges that require close coordination and assistance from us and with us”.

“We are confident that with the right cooperation and right strategy we can see success here in this very long struggle,” he added.

Another delegation member Senator Elizabeth Warren echoed Senator McCain, saying it was important “to have strong partnership with Pakistan in this fight. That is the only way we will succeed”.

Both Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa had on Sunday in their meetings with the delegation emphasised on “constructive engagement” and “enduring Pak-US security cooperation”.

An ISPR statement said the US senators, while touring South Waziristan, reaffirmed the “importance of institutionalised Pak-Afghan border security coordination and cooperation mechanism”.

The delegation was taken to South Waziristan for showing them the measures being taken by Pakistan for securing the border, including its fencing, enhanced surveillance and construction of forts and posts. The senators were also briefed about the developmental projects that were being undertaken in the area.

The US, the embassy said, had provided Rs9.9 billion for law enforcement personnel in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which besides being spent on the Takhta Baig-Mattani road, was used for construction of more than 100 border outposts.

Senator McCain had last year led another Senate delegation to North Waziristan and on that occasion praised Pakistani effort and called for “closer relations and resolving the differences”.

Meeting with prime minister

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, during the meeting with the delegation, said that strong partnership between the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan was “a prerequisite” for sustainable peace in Afghanistan. He emphasised the importance of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) for facilitating Afghan reconciliation.

PM Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had during their meeting in Astana on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation recently had agreed on reviving the QCG. China later endorsed the activation of the QCG that has been dysfunctional since May 2016. The US is apparently not too keen about the idea.

“[The] prime minister noted that as longstanding partners and strategic allies, a sustained and strong Pak-US partnership was essential to deal with the various challenges confronting the region and beyond,” the PM Office statement said.

Mr Sharif said his government was committed to having good relations with its neighbours.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2017