ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan on Monday condemned a U.S. drone strike that killed three suspected Islamist militants in the northwest, the first since the country's parliament demanded that Washington end the attacks two weeks ago.
U.S. officials have indicated in private that they have no intention of stopping the covert CIA drone program in Pakistan, which could imperil the Obama administration's attempts to get Islamabad to reopen supply lines to NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistan closed its Afghan border crossings to NATO supplies last November in retaliation for American airstrikes that accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The government also kicked the U.S. out of a base used by American drones.
After months of political wrangling, the Pakistani parliament in mid-April unanimously approved new guidelines for the country in its relationship with the U.S., a move that Washington hoped would pave the way for the supply lines to reopen.
But that has not yet happened.
One source of conflict is parliament's demand that the U.S. provide an "unconditional apology" for the deaths of the Pakistani troops. The U.S. has expressed regret, but has declined to apologize — a decision that appears to be driven by domestic political considerations. The U.S. has said its troops fired in self-defense — a claim disputed by Pakistan — and the White House could be concerned about Republican criticism if it apologizes.
Drone attacks are the other major source of conflict. President Barack Obama significantly ramped up the strikes when he took office in 2009, and while the U.S. has said little publicly about the attacks, American officials have argued in private that they are critical to targeting Taliban and al-Qaida fighters who threaten the West.