`As Pakistan pursues Taliban peace talks, US scales back drone strikes`
Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha
Washington: Just a day after Taliban peace talks were delayed, a report emerged on Wednesday suggesting that the United States has drastically scaled back drone strikes in Pakistan since December last.
A report in the Washington Post citing US officials, says that drone strikes on Pakistan have been drastically curtailed after a request from Islamabad as the country is set to hold peace talks with the Taliban, which was scheduled to begin yesterday but was delayed.
“That’s what they asked for, and we didn’t tell them no,” the Washington Post quoted a US official.
However, the report added that the US would continue to strike top al Qaeda targets and those who posed a direct threat to Americans.
The report comes just a day after the peace talks between Pakistan and Taliban were delayed.
The delay in the peace talks came as the government negotiators failed to show up, sparking criticism from Taliban negotiators.
The militant outfit TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) had formed its negotiating team and had waited entire day on Tuesday for the government representatives to arrive, but in vain, a BBC report quoted Taliban negotiator Ibrahim Khan as saying.
The Taliban blamed the government for the delay, the report added.
Meanwhile, a member from the government side said that the delay occurred as they were waiting for the Taliban to clarify identities of their negotiating team.
However, the clarifications over their identities had been received now and the talks were expected to start in a couple of days, government negotiator and veteran journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai said.
The Talibani representatives are Maulana Sami ul-Haq, known as the "Father of the Taliban", chief cleric of Islamabad`s Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz and Ibrahim Khan, according to the BBC.
While the government team comprises of lead negotiator Irfan Siddiqui, Rahimullah Yusufzai, Rustam Shah Mohmand (a former ambassador) and Amir Shah, a former ISI Major.
The recent lull in drone strikes by the US since last December came after Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in November.
The killing of two senior TTP leaders Baitullah Mehsud and Hakimullah Mehsud came just as the peace talks with the Taliban were due to begin.
Then, the Taliban had cancelled the talks and PM Nawaz Sharif had accused the US of scuttling the talks even before they could begin.
Earlier, the US had exercised a similar restraint in launching drone strikes after November 2011 when 24 Pak soldiers were killed in a strike at Salala border post.
That had marked the beginning of a rough phase in US-Pak ties with Pak responding with closing supply routes to Afghanistan.
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