Secretary of State John Kerry suggested US drone strikes in Pakistan may end


US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the Prime Minister's House in Islamabad on August 1, 2013.


Aamir Qureshi

Drone strikes in Pakistan may end soon, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a television interview on Thursday.

During an interview with Pakistan TV, Kerry said: “The program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it."

He added, “I think the president has a very real timeline and we hope it’s going to be very, very soon.”

Drone strikes have likely killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan, but estimates of the death toll vary greatly. In the month of July alone, the US carried out three such strikes in Pakistan.

However, a State Department spokesperson said Thursday, "In no way would we ever deprive ourselves of a tool to fight a threat if it arises," seemingly contradicting Kerry's words to the Pakistani public.

Kerry's words came as the United States agreed to restart strategic talks with the South Asian country after they were stalled by a NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in 2011.

The United States is looking to rebuild its relationship with Pakistan, which deteriorated after the 2011 air strike, tension over continued drone strikes and the American raid that killed Osama Bin Laden on Pakistani territory.

Kerry spoke beside Sartaj Aziz, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's adviser on foreign affairs, telling reporters that both sides would try to move forward after past difficulties.

"The common interests far exceed and far outweigh any differences," Kerry said during the joint press conference. 

He also spoke about the drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan, stating that it was not a complete withdrawal.

The secretary of state said that the United States was confident that it would reach a security agreement with Afghanistan allowing US troops to stay beyond 2014.

The Obama administration has remained silent about the exact number of troops that would remain in Afghanistan and what still needs to be discussed to achieve the so-called Bilateral Security Agreement.

Kerry's surprise visit to Pakistan was the first by a US official after the election of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in May.