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

3 hours ago in Sports

Cavaliers beat Hawks in series opener

14-overlay-1

A week off did not disrupt the Cleveland Cavaliers' momentum, nor was it enough time to alter the Atlanta Hawks' history against them. The Cavaliers still have never lost to the Hawks in the postseason, but this one was not easy.

3 hours ago in Sports

Murray makes his mark as Pens beat Caps

capsREUTERS

The Pittsburgh Penguins do not have a goal yet in the series from Sidney Crosby. Or a power-play goal. What they do have is a 2-1 lead over the Washington Capitals.

3 hours ago in Sports

British soccer team Leicester celebrates 5,000-1 title success

leichesterREUTERS

Leicester City's Premier League title dream became reality on Monday when one of the greatest sporting fairytales reached its conclusion in west London where chasing Tottenham Hotspur were held 2-2 by Chelsea.

4 hours ago in National

Obama takes Supreme Court fight to Republican senators’ home turf

obamaREUTERS

President Barack Obama on Monday took the political battle over his pick for a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court to the home states of seven Republican senators up for re-election in November.

4 hours ago in Entertainment, Sports

Hulk Hogan seeks second slam of Gawker over racist comments leak

Terry Bollea, known as professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, listens while testifying in his case against the news website Gawker at the Pinellas County Courthouse, in St. Petersburg, Fla., Monday, March 7, 2016. Hogan is suing Gawker for $100 million for publishing a video of him having sex with his best friend's wife. (Boyzell Hosey/Tampa Bay Times via AP, Pool)

Hulk Hogan accused Gawker of leaking his racist remarks in a lawsuit filed in Florida on Monday involving a secretly-recorded sex tape of the wrestling celebrity, who recently won $140 million in damages against the media website in a related case.