PRINCETON, NJ (Reuters) – U.S. military raids against militants inside Pakistan threaten to hurt progress being made against them by Pakistani forces and are an intrusion on Pakistan’s sovereignty, the country’s new foreign minister said on Wednesday.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi said recent attacks by U.S. forces on Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents in tribal areas on the Pakistan side of its border with Afghanistan may set back the government’s efforts to fight terrorism there.
“I’m afraid that a relatively recent element in this already difficult war threatens to undo what we have already achieved,” Qureshi said in a speech at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. “I am referring to U.S. attacks in Pakistani territory.”
Relations between the United States and Pakistan have been strained since the attacks. U.S. officials say Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked fighters use the tribal regions as a base to launch attacks into Afghanistan.
The U.S. actions risk further alienating the population of the tribal areas and the wider populace, Qureshi said.
“The Pakistan public rightly sees such attacks as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” he said. “We must not take any action that hardens the resolve of those already committed to violence.”
He said Pakistan’s fight against terrorism has been further damaged because the raids have been carried out by its ally.
“It hurts us even more when the transgressor is our friend and ally, the U.S.,” he said. “If there are actions to be taken, those actions will be taken by Pakistan.”
He said Pakistani government forces have been fighting militants in the remote and rugged border areas since 2004 and suffered hundreds of casualties.
But he said military force alone cannot win the war there or in Afghanistan where governments, including the United States, must win support of the people through other means.
“Force must be complemented by political, economic and social engagement,” Qureshi said. “Force alone is an insufficient objective to win the hearts and minds of the populace.”
Qureshi said he was “bewildered” that Pakistan is seen by some Americans as a source of terrorism rather than a partner in the war against it. He acknowledged the presence of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters in the border areas but rejected that there were safe havens there.
The minister called on the United States to provide more night-time fighting equipment, and urged Afghanistan to add hundreds more military posts along its side of the border to match those installed by Pakistan.