Washington DC: A day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that the drone strike by the United States in Balochistan was a violation of Pakistan`s sovereignty, the Barack Obama government responded saying that they do respect Islamabad`s territorial integrity, but that will not stop them from carrying out strikes to remove terrorists targeting US forces.
Speaking at a press briefing, State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said that the drone strike last week had had been about removing Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was actively pursuing, planning, carrying out attacks against US and Afghan forces in the region.
"First of all, this was a strike directed against this individual, Mansour, in the Afghan-Pakistan border region. We certainly do respect Pakistan`s territorial integrity, but as we`ve said before, we will carry out strikes to remove terrorists who are actively pursuing and planning and directing attacks against US forces," Toner said.
Asserting that the drone strike sent a clear message that those who target the US and the Afghan people, are not going to be given a safe haven, and that there`s only one option for the Taliban, which is to pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
"What I think it does send is a clear message, as I said, that if you`re going to carry out attacks, if you`re going to lead attacks against our forces and against Afghan`s forces - Afghanistan`s forces - then you`re going to be targeted and you`re not going to have safe haven," Toner said.
"And I also think that it sends the message that the Taliban must decide what its future is going to be and whether it`s going to be part of a peaceful political future for Afghanistan. And there is a path towards that. They can sit down with the Afghan Government and begin negotiations and talks. We`ve encouraged that; we support an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led process," he added.
He further said that following the drone strike, the US has been in touch with Pakistan and have continued to talk about how they can collaborate and cooperate on rooting out terrorist organisations that continue to Pakistan`s territory to carry out attacks.
Earlier, Prime Minister Sharif slammed the drone strike carried out by the United States in Balochistan saying that a strong protest had been lodged with the US over the attack.
Sharif said that it was not clear that Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was among the two people reportedly killed in the air strike, adding that details of the incident were still being collected.
A statement by the Foreign Office in Islamabad said that while investigations were being carried out, "Pakistan wishes to once again state that the drone attack was a violation of its sovereignty, an issue which has been raised with the United States in the past as well".
People close to the Taliban said the strike took place as senior `commanders` were travelling to attend a wedding in a Pakistani village.
Taliban`s chief justice official, Mullah Shaikh Abdul Hakim, could have been among those killed in the strike, they said.