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 National, Sports

Lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber to argue for new trial

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is pictured in an undated FBI handout photo

Lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are due in court on Tuesday to seek a new trial for their client, who was sentenced to death in June for the 2013 bomb attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.

in Sports

Kentucky remains on top


The Wildcats are off to a 7-0 start and got 59 of the first place votes.

in Sports

Warriors’ perfect start being put to the test


Golden State extended their NBA record start to 19-0 with a narrow win over the Utah Jazz but that inevitable first defeat of the season may come sooner rather than later.

in Sports

Ravens beat Browns with touchdown off blocked field goal


Baltimore Ravens safety Will Hill gave up the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter Monday night, but he atoned for that error in a big way.

in National, World

China, U.S. high-level cyber crime talks to begin Tuesday


Top U.S. and Chinese officials will convene this week in Washington for the first round of cyber security talks following the signing of a bilateral anti-hacking accord in September.