WASHINGTON - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged US President Barack Obama on Wednesday to end drone strikes in Pakistan, touching on a sore subject just as relations between the two countries improve after years of suspicion over Afghanistan and the US counterterrorism fight.
"I ... brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes," Sharif told reporters after meeting with Obama in the Oval Office.
But the Washington Post reported on Wednesday that while top Pakistani officials denounce the US drone programme, they have secretly endorsed it for years and are routinely given classified briefings on targets and casualties.
The Post, citing secret CIA documents and Pakistani diplomatic memos, said that markings on some documents indicated they were prepared by the CIA's Counterterrorism Center so they could be shown to Pakistani officials. The documents discuss strikes that killed dozens of alleged al Qaeda operatives and in which they say no civilians were killed.
The Post said a CIA spokesman it contacted did not dispute the authenticity of the documents.
US-Pakistani relations were badly strained following the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan where he was in hiding. But they appear to be on the mend as the United States prepares to pull forces out of Afghanistan in 2014.
The United States has quietly restarted security assistance to Pakistan after freezing aid during the period of soured relations, when Washington frequently voiced complaints about the ties of the Pakistani intelligence service to militant groups active in Afghanistan.
A series of major setbacks in recent years included a 2011 NATO air strike that mistakenly killed Pakistani border guards and another incident that year in which a CIA contractor killed two men on the streets of Lahore.
Obama acknowledged tensions and "misunderstandings" between the two countries. He said he and Sharif had pledged to work together on security issues in ways that "respect Pakistan's sovereignty."