political notebook

Obama, Pakistani PM to meet amid easing tensions

President Obama did not publicly bring up the contentious issue of drone strikes in the conference at the White House. But Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, did speak out, “emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes.’’
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press
President Obama did not publicly bring up the contentious issue of drone strikes in the conference at the White House. But Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, did speak out, “emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes.’’

WASHINGTON — Seeking to improve a rocky relationship, President Obama and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday pledged cooperation on the security issues that have strained ties between their nations. But the sources of the long-standing tensions did briefly bubble to the surface.

Speaking alongside Obama in the Oval Office, Sharif said he raised the issue of American drone strikes during their two-hour meeting, ‘‘emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes.’’ For his part, Obama made no mention of drones, which have stoked widespread resentment in Pakistan, where many believe the targeted strikes by the armed unmanned aircraft kill large numbers of civilians.

Despite the Pakistani concerns, the United States has not indicated it is willing to abandon the attacks, even though the number of strikes has dropped in the past couple of years. The Pakistani government secretly supported the strikes in the past, and US officials contend some key leaders still do.


Wednesday marked the first time Obama and Sharif have met since the Pakistani leader took office in June. And the mere fact that the talks took place was seen as a sign of progress after a particularly sour period in relations between the security partners.

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Obama acknowledged there will always be some tension between the two countries but said he and Sharif agreed to build a relationship based on mutual respect.

‘‘It’s a challenge. It’s not easy,’’ he said. ‘‘We committed to working together and making sure that rather than this being a source of tension between our two countries, it can be a source of strength.’’

Tensions peaked in 2011 following the US raid inside Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden and the accidental killing of two dozen Pakistani troops in an American airstrike along the Afghan border that same year.

But there have been recent signs of progress, with Pakistan reopening supply routes to Afghanistan that it closed in retaliation for the accidental killing of its troops.


Ahead of Sharif’s visit, the United States quietly decided to release more than $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan that was suspended in 2011.

Associated Press

Nuclear arms expert fired amid Twitter controversy

WASHINGTON — A White House insider in the thick of negotiations over nuclear issues with Iran was fired after he was exposed as the voice of a Twitter feed that for more than two years knocked public figures and colleagues, a White House official confirmed.

Jofi Joseph, formerly the director of nuclear nonproliferation issues on the National Security Council staff, was @NatSecWonk, who took anonymous and often caustic digs at people including former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton; Ben Rhodes, the NSC spokesman; and Representative Darrell R. Issa, Republican of California and a nemesis of the administration as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Administration officials said Joseph was fired last week after he was unmasked as the Twitter account’s author.

The firing was first disclosed by the website The Daily Beast and its reporter Josh Rogin, who was one of the subjects of Joseph’s tweets.


Joseph was generally respected and popular within the White House, so his secret life took colleagues by surprise. On @NatSecWonk, which has now disappeared, he called himself a “keen observer of the foreign policy and national security scene” who “unapologetically says what everyone else only thinks.”

In that self-described spirit, Joseph made Clinton a particular target. As secretary of state in President Obama’s first term, she “had few policy goals and no wins,” he wrote.