Pakistan condemns ‘unilateral’ US drone strike

Published January 25, 2018
A tribesman inspects the site of a drone strike in Kurram Agency on Wednesday.—AFP
A tribesman inspects the site of a drone strike in Kurram Agency on Wednesday.—AFP

ISLAMABAD/KALAYA: Pakistan on Wednesday condemned a US drone strike deep inside its territory targeting an Afghan refugee camp and warned Washington that such ‘unilateral’ steps would be detrimental to cooperation between the two countries in fight against terrorism.

This was the first US drone strike inside Pakistani territory over the past 19 months, the Foreign Office confirmed, as none of the over one dozen attacks by the unmanned vehicle reported in the media during this period had drawn official condemnation from Pakistan’s FO.

“Pakistan condemns a drone strike in Kurram Agency carried out by the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) this [Wednesday] morning, which targeted an Afghan refugee camp,” the FO statement said.

Two killed in pre-dawn attack on Afghan refugee camp in Kurram Agency: FO

Area residents told Dawn that an unmanned plane fired missiles on a mud house in Spin Thall near the garrison town of Thall, killing two men namely Ihsanullah and Nasir Mehmood. While locals said this was the third drone strike in Spin Thall in recent months, this was perhaps the first condemnation by the FO after the killing of Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour by a drone in Balochistan in May 22, 2016.

Most of the over dozen drone strikes reported since then took place in Kurram Agency, which is alleged to be the new base of the Haqqani network after being dislodged from North Waziristan due to the Pakistan military operation, Zarb-i-Azb.

Drone strikes had generally declined after the peak in 2010 with 117 hits.

The absence of official condemnation over the past year and a half was not the result of any policy shift, but because there was no confirmation of the strikes, a security official explained.

Relations with the US have been on a downslide since the announcement of the new South Asia and Afghanistan policy by President Trump. Last month in a report on Afghanistan, Pentagon had stated that a range of tools including “unilateral steps in areas of divergence” would be employed to induce the required change. The US also suspended security assistance for Pakistan as a follow-up to Mr Trump’s New Year tweet accusing Islamabad of “lies and deceit”.

Just a day back Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had told journalists that Pakistan had all options, including both diplomatic and military responses, available for responding to any violation of its sovereignty. He had also underscored that there was no justification for any unilateral action.

Following the drone strike, the FO said such unilateral actions were detrimental to the spirit of cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism. “Pakistan has continued to emphasise to the US the importance of sharing actionable intelligence so that appropriate action is taken against terrorists by our forces within our territory”.

The FO, moreover, reminded the US that Pakistan had long been pushing for early repatriation of Afghan refugees among whom Afghan terrorists might have “melted and morphed”. The latest strike is reported to have taken place at a house belonging to Afghan refugees.

A resident told Dawn that the mud house that came under attack was built on a hillock. He said that Afghan nationals had presence in the area. Extensive movement of drones had been reported from Kurram Agency adjacent to the Orakzai Agency.

“Drones continuously fly over Kurram valley all the night that disturb our sleep,” said a resident of Parachinar, the Kurram administrative headquarters. The last drone strike was reported in the Badshah Kot area of Kurram on January 17 in which an Afghan national received injuries.

Deputy Superintendent Police of Thall Shaukat Bukhari confirmed the latest drone strike though the political administration of Orakzai did not comment.

Locals told Dawn that two bodies were taken away for burial following the pre-dawn strike.

Sources said that over 50 people had been killed in seven drone strikes in Kurram Agency and Orakzai Agency so far. Mostly Ghuzgarhi, a hamlet near the Afghan border in Kurram Agency, bore the brunt of the drone strikes.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2018

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