News

U.S. defense chief to visit Pakistan

U.S. defense chief to visit Pakistan

PAKISTAN VISIT: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (R) speaks with U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Arron Corona as he works on a MRAP vehicle during a visit to Camp Bastion, Helmand province Dec. 8. Photo: Reuters/Mark Wilson

By David Alexander

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will travel to Pakistan on Monday for talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other senior officials, as the first Pentagon chief to visit Islamabad in nearly four years, a spokesman said.

Hagel announced the Pakistan trip while talking to U.S. troops at Camp Leatherneck in southwestern Afghanistan, where he is on a two-day visit to consult with senior U.S. and Afghan officials and pay a holiday tribute to American forces.

The Pakistan visit comes amid renewed tensions over U.S. drone strikes as well as a threat to U.S. equipment being shipped from Afghanistan across Pakistan to the port of Karachi.

The Pentagon said a week ago that protests over a U.S. drone strike prompted a temporary suspension in the shipments of U.S. equipment across Pakistan through the Torkham Gate border crossing near the Khyber Pass.

Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog said it has been nearly four years since a U.S. defense secretary visited Pakistan, a large recipient of U.S. aid to reimburse countries for their effort in support of the U.S.-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan.

The last U.S. defense secretary to visit the country was Robert Gates in January 2010.

Woog said Hagel met Sharif during his visit to Washington earlier this year and “looks forward to continuing candid and productive conversations about our important security partnership and how to address common threats”.

Woog said Hagel would talk to Sharif and other Pakistani leaders about their shared interest in a stable future for Afghanistan as the United States withdraws forces from the country following a dozen years of war.

A senior defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the supply routes across Pakistan, known as the Pakistani ground lines of communication, had largely been open since July 2012, with a few brief exceptions.

The official said the most recent decision to suspend shipments across Pakistan had been taken on the Afghan side of the border because of the drone protests and concern for the safety of the drivers. But he said the suspension had been brief and had been lifted.

“It’s my understanding that the protests never actually interdicted or blocked that route,” the official said. “The suspension was a short-term suspension based on concerns about security. It was a self-imposed restriction, it wasn’t due to a blockage of the route. The protests have died down.”

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Andrew Roche)

Recent Headlines

in Local

$2.7 Million Headed to Fight Illinois Veteran Homelessness, $56k to Springfield

homeless

$2.7 million in federal grants will go to housing hundreds of homeless veterans in Illinois.

in Local

Police Investigate Two Shootings in Grandview

policetape

The Sangamon County Sheriffs Department is helping Grandview Police Investigate two separate shooting incidents within hours of each other Sunday.

in Local

Sherman Mayor: Only Give Residents What They Want

sherman

The newly re-elected mayor of Sherman says economic development and growing the town will continue to be his top priority.

in Local

Wells Fargo Adding 100+ Jobs in Springfield

wells-fargo-logo

A resurgent mortgage industry means a major employer in Springfield is hiring again.

in Local

LaHood So Far Front-Runner to Replace Schock

darin lahood

State Senator Darin LaHood remains the favorite to replace Aaron Schock as the 18th District Congressman.