US may equip Pakistan with drone aircraft, Gates says
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told leaders on his visit to Islamabad that all of South Asia faces instability if Al Qaeda goes unchecked in Pakistan.
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His visit comes amid increasing local concern about growing US involvement in Pakistan, reports the BBC. That compounds anger over civilian deaths in drone attacks along the country’s border with Afghanistan, where US officials believe many Taliban leaders are holding out.
But a recent US aid package that triples nonmilitary assistance to Pakistan, to the tune of $1.5 billion annually until 2015, has left Islamabad’s leadership somewhat bound to American antiterror efforts, says Reuters. Pakistan has lost about 2,000 troops fighting the Taliban so far and is expected to launch a new offensive close to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border later this year, according to reports.
As it prepares to send tens of thousands more of its own soldiers to Afghanistan, the US is also seeking greater international cooperation. While in New Delhi, Gates also discussed Indian reconstruction support in Kabul, reports Pakistan’s Daily Times. He will probably try to ease the concerns of Pakistan officials suspicious of India gaining influence in Afghanistan.
In an opinion piece published in Pakistan’s The News, Gates tried to drum up common support for US military efforts in South Asia -- by hitting on the notion that nowhere is safe from terrorist organizations.
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I know there is concern that an increased U.S. presence in Afghanistan will lead to more attacks in Pakistan. It is important to remember that the Pakistani Taliban operates in collusion with both the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al Qaeda, so it is impossible to separate these groups. If history is any indication, safe havens for either Taliban, on either side of the border, will in the long-run lead to more lethal and more brazen attacks in both nations – attacks of the kind that have already exacted a terrible civilian toll.
"Only 10 percent success can be achieved through operations while 90 percent success is possible through economic development,” Gilani said.
Correction: The original version of this story misstated Secretary Gates's position on the use of drones in fighting militants in Pakistan.
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