WASHINGTON - CIA drone strikes in Pakistan are “a clear violation of our sovereignty and a violation of international law” that threaten stable relations between the two governments, Washing Post quoted Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman as saying Tuesday.

Persistent reports that Pakistan has tacitly approved the strikes while publicly denouncing them are untrue, Ambassador Sherry Rehman said. “Let me assure you that since we have been in government, there has been no quiet complicity, no question of wink and nod,” she said, referring to the hundreds of drone attacks on militant targets, most of them under the Obama administration.

“Let me assure you that since we have been in government, there is no question of quiet complicity. There is no question of ‘wink and nod.’ This is a parliamentary ‘red line’ that all our government institutions have internalized as policy,” said Sherry. “I also say this as not just a policy that we say. It is important to us.” Her comments, in a meeting with reporters organised by the Christian Science Monitor, underscored the fragility of the thaw in US relations with Pakistan after what Sherry said were years of “chronic distrust and periods of crisis management.”

Pakistan has agreed to an Afghan request for the release of Afghan Taliban prisoners held in Pakistan, Sherry said, although she declined to specify who would be released or when. Afghan officials said they believe the prisoners, some of them high-level Taliban, can be helpful in reconciliation talks with the militants.

Pakistan has long resented what it describes the United States’ failure to appreciate its domestic terrorism problems and counterterrorism operations, which Sherry said have cost nearly 50,000 military and civilian lives and billions of dollars in expenditures and lost income over the past decade.

Although US-Pakistan relations are on an “uphill trajectory,” Sherry said, Pakistan is increasingly concerned that the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will leave “the kind of detritus we were left to deal with” after the last US departure from the region more than two decades ago. As the Obama administration plans for a quick exit, with a force of unknown size left behind, “there are clear worries about how responsible this drawdown will be,” said Sherry, who became ambassador to Washington in November 2011 after a career in parliament focused on foreign policy and human rights.

She said many of the militants who attack Pakistani government targets are hiding in eastern Afghanistan, in part because US and international forces are not present in large numbers.

“The border is becoming increasingly volatile,” Sherry said.

She said Pakistani government publicly and privately denounces America’s use of drones within its borders and sees it as a ‘red line’ that has been crossed.

Sherry said the strikes were both illegal and counterproductive. “We see them as a direct violation of our sovereignty. We also see them as a violation of international law,” the ambassador said. Sherry would not elaborate on the Pakistani reaction if the US continues with its current actions. Every US drone strike garners national attention in Pakistan through dozens of television outlets, says Sherry.

“Operationally, it is counterproductive because it creates more potential terrorists on the ground instead of taking them out,” she says, adding public perception in Pakistan turns the attacks into a recruiting tool for terrorist organizations. “We need to drain the swamp.”

“This is an anomaly that we are constantly addressing in all our conversations with the US. It certainly is not a part of our playbook,” she says. “We don’t want our engagements with the US to be defined by that, or our operations.”

“There has to be a little more strategic sympathy for what Pakistan has done and continues to do,” says Sherry.

The relationship between Pakistan and the United States has improved drastically in Sherry’s limited tenure in Washington, she says, since the beginning of 2012 when diplomacy was “marked by chronic distrust.” That relationship is now “stable and on an upward trajectory,” she says.