US Defense Secretary Hagel visits Pakistan
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (2nd R) arrives to speak to U.S. troops at the Kandahar air base, on December 8, 2013 in Kandahar, Afghanistan.[AFP]
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In hopes to continue repair on the strained relationship between Washington and Islamabad, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Pakistan Monday to meet with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the nation's new army chief.
This visit comes after recent interruption of U.S. military shipments out of Afghanistan into Pakistan. After so many anti-American protests along the route in Pakistan, the U.S. decided to stop the shipments from Torkham Gate through Karachi last week. The main reason was for the safety concerns over the drivers on the route.
The protesters are voicing concerns over the CIA's drone program, which has targeted and killed many terrorists but has also caused many civilian casualties as well.
Pakistan has called the drone attacks a violation of the country's sovereignty, but the issue is confused by the fact that both Islamabad and the Pakistani military have been in the position of supporting some of the strikes in the past.
Pakistan reopened the routes from a self-imposed block after the U.S. apologized for the death of two dozen soldiers that were killed by U.S. airstrikes on accident in 2011.
Since then, the U.S. has handed over more than $1.15 billion in security assistance to Pakistan. This includes items such as roadside bomb jammers, advanced communications equipment, night vision goggles and surveillance aircraft.
These issues are expected to come up in Hagel’s meetings. Over the past year, relations between Washington and Islamabad have increased. Sharif met with President Obama and Hagel in October in Washington.
It is expected that Hagel will request that Pakistan continue to keep the border crossings open, said a defense official who requested anonymity.
The U.S. has had some issues with Pakistan due to its unwillingness to focus on the Haqqani terrorist network. This network is said to operate along the border and attacks U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.
Defense officials claim that Hagel will be the first high-ranking U.S. official to meet with Gen. Sharil. Gen. Sharil took over as head of Pakistan's Army at the end of November.
The last Pentagon chief to visit Pakistan was Robert Gates in January 2010.
Hagel arrived in Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he was visiting U.S. troops. He declined to meet with President Hamid Karzai, as he has refused to sign a security agreement before the end of the year.