ISLAMABAD: America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is likely to resume the drone campaign that it had apparently called off following a deadly Nato airstrike on Pakistani border posts in the Mohmand tribal region on November 26, 2011. However, this time around, the frequency and intensity of attacks by pilot-less aircraft would not be as high as it was in the past.
Sources told The Express Tribune on Sunday that both sides have almost agreed on ‘fresh terms of engagements’ to resume drone attacks against suspected al Qaeda members and their local facilitators hiding in the tribal areas, including North and South Waziristan.
The deadly aircraft operated from the CIA Headquarters at Langley in McClean, Virginia, would now be flying from American airbases in Afghanistan, said an official privy to the developments taking place behind the scene.
The Bagram airbase, just outside the Afghan capital Kabul, might be the new launch pad for drone attacks inside Pakistan in the future, said the official.
Though the parliamentary committee on the national security is still working out new terms of engagement with the US, it was recently reported that top intelligence officials from Pakistan and the US were already busy in secret talks to lower tensions.
Officials said the resumption of drone strikes might be under new conditions. They added that Pakistani negotiators had convinced their American counterparts on at least a couple of conditions: First, the drone strikes should not be as frequent as they were in 2010 and 2011. And second, the CIA should narrow the stripe the aircraft were targeting under the approach known as ‘box formation’ in military terms.
“We don’t want them to be that frequent … it creates problems for us by invoking public anger,” the official added, saying Pakistani authorities believed drones were ‘strategically harmful but tactically advantageous’.
About the box approach, he added that the areas the Pakistani military had already claimed to have cleared must not be hit. “We want them to be within a smaller radius,” the official explained.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2012.