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

Durbin Disappointed in Quick Fixes for Highway Funding and Import Export Bank

Fresh
Dick Durbin

Dick Durbin hopes those issues will be addressed when Congress returns in September.

in Local

Kelly Contemplates Another Run for Office

Fresh
william j kelly

William Kelly has run for several offices and says the Illinois GOP has gotten away from it's values.

in Local

Hastert Closes PAC, Moves Money to Legal Defense Fund

Fresh
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrives at the federal courthouse, Tuesday, June 9, 2015, in Chicago for his arraignment on federal charges that he broke federal banking laws and lied about the money when questioned by the FBI. The indictment two weeks ago alleged Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to someone from his days as a high school teacher not to reveal a secret about past misconduct.

Former Speaker of the House under investigation for violating banking laws and lying to the FBI.

in Local

Task Force Hopes to Help Mitsubishi and It’s Employees

Fresh
mitsubishi

Task force includes Governor Rauner and Congressmen Durbin, Kirk, and Rodney Davis.

in Local

St. Clair County Sheriff Passes on U.S. House Bid

rick watson

Sheriff Rick Watson has declined a run for the house in the 12th Congressional District.