US backs TTP talks decision but avoids comments on call to end drone strikes

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The US supports Islamabad’s decision on holding talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, senior US officials said on Thursday but offered no elaboration on American response to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s call end to drone attacks on Pakistani territory.

In a background brief with reporters, senior State Department officials also echoed agreement with Pakistan on nudging peace progress with India.

The State Department and administration officials also sounded amenable to Islamabad’s concerns on misuse of Afghan soil by India and Afghanistan against Pakistani interests.

“He (PM Sharif) indicated his intentions (to hold talks with the Taliban) and we indicated our support,” a senior State Department official said, when questioned about US reaction to Islamabad’s decision to hold talks with TTP.

Nawaz told at the conclusion of his talks with US President Barack Obama that the US was informed that Pakistan had made a conscious decision on holding talks with the TTP as part of efforts to contain militancy. He sought the US support on the issue.

Asked pointedly about US reaction to the controversial drone strikes issue on Pakistani soil, the official termed it a classified subject. Instead, he referred reporters to President Obama’s speech on the issue a few months ago and Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks during a trip to Pakistan.

The official also declined to comment on revelations in The Washington Post story that Pakistan and the United States cooperated on some of the drone strikes on Pakistani territory.

The senior American official said Nawaz “raised the drone issue in (both) public and private” discussions.

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