How Pakistan helps the US drone campaign

Published: January 22, 2012

Cooperation may be more extensive than previously believed.

ISLAMABAD: The death of a senior al Qaeda leader in a US drone strike in tribal badlands, the first strike in almost two months, signalled that the US-Pakistan intelligence partnership is still in operation despite political tensions.

The Jan 10 strike and its follow-up two days later were joint operations, a security source based in the tribal areas told Reuters.

They made use of Pakistani “spotters” on the ground and demonstrated a level of coordination that both sides have sought to downplay since tensions erupted in January 2011 with the killing of two Pakistanis by a CIA contractor in Lahore.

“Our working relationship is a bit different from our political relationship,” the source told Reuters, requesting anonymity. “It’s more productive.”

US and Pakistani sources told Reuters that the target of the Jan 10 attack was Aslam Awan, a citizen of Abbottabad, where Osama bin Laden was killed last May by a US commando team.

They said he was targeted in a strike by a US-operated drone directed at what news reports said was a compound near the town of Miramshah in North Waziristan.

That strike broke an undeclared eight-week hiatus in attacks by the armed, unmanned drones that patrol the tribal areas.

The sources described Awan, also known as Abdullah Khorasani, as a significant figure in the remaining core leadership of al Qaeda, which US officials say has been sharply reduced by the drone campaign.

The ‘real’ partnership

The source, who says he runs a network of spotters primarily in North and South Waziristan, described for the first time how cooperation on strikes works, with his agents keeping close tabs on suspected militants and building a pattern of their movements and associations.

“We run a network of human intelligence sources,” he said.

“Separately, we monitor their cell and satellite phones.

“Thirdly, we run joint monitoring operations with our US and UK friends,” he added, noting that cooperation with British intelligence was also extensive.

Pakistani and US intelligence officers, using their own sources, hash out a joint “priority of targets lists” in regular face-to-face meetings, he said.

“Al Qaeda is our top priority,” he said.

He declined to say where the meetings take place.

Once a target is identified and “marked,” his network coordinates with drone operators on the US side. He said the United States bases drones outside Kabul, likely at Bagram airfield.

From spotting to firing a missile “hardly takes about two to three hours”, he said.

It was impossible to verify the source’s claims and American experts, who decline to discuss the drone programme, say the Pakistanis’ cooperation has been less helpful in the past.

US officials have complained that when information on drone strikes was shared with the Pakistanis beforehand, the targets were often tipped off, allowing them to escape.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd,  2012.

Reader Comments (10)

  • Jan 22, 2012 - 3:34PM

    Its a lie against Pak Army. Pak Army doesn’t support US Drones and NATO activites. It is against these foreign invaders and helps the rebels against it.

    But wait a sec.. are not the world saying the same? Huh.. who cares… the thing is Pak Army is pure, flawless and the only rehnuma of our watan.

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  • Loyal to Pakistan
    Jan 22, 2012 - 4:10PM

    Another “anonymous source” talking to foreign media????????????????

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  • Mario
    Jan 22, 2012 - 4:19PM

    Shame on us for being at the forefront of these savage drone attacks. What’s sad is our best buds “US and UK” still blame us for supporting terrorists while terrorists blame us for supporting US. Pakistan has one of the most stupid policy I’ve ever seen.

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  • Bitter Reality
    Jan 22, 2012 - 5:08PM

    The Brookings Institution, however, says civilian deaths are high, reporting in 2009 that “for every militant killed, 10 or more civilians also died.”
    Now you want all these affected civilians to be the part of national integration and patriotic while they were killed aimlessly by Americans duly permitted by the so called Islamic Republic of Pakistan. How foolish your expectation is???
    One more question from our armed forces plz??
    Why the lives of 471 innocent are much worthless as compared to 24 army men?? As Pakistan is reviewing their relation with US for the killing of 24 soldiers, then why not reviewed before because of the killing of 471innocent civilians till 2009.Recommend

  • Ashraf P
    Jan 22, 2012 - 5:30PM

    @Zaid Hamid: The political government does not have the means to assist the US in any way with the drones. They don’t have their own intelligence collection system. This can only be possible with the active participation of the establishment.

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  • Jan 22, 2012 - 5:41PM

    Those who are defender’s of our sovereignty are compromising on it despite the desire and expectations of nation

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  • nnk
    Jan 22, 2012 - 7:17PM

    Please understand that these Drones are targeting known Al Qaeda operatives and other Taliban leaders who are involved in our country and destroying the very fabric of our society. The tribal in FATA are also in favor of these Drones, because they are wary of these and because the collateral damage is minimal. Yes, I am not for unilateral drone strikes inside our borders by the US without our consent. Recommend

  • hamza khan
    Jan 22, 2012 - 11:22PM

    even if this is true…not the end of the world. al-qaeda has declared war on the pakistani nation. should we all be like imran khan and speak against foreign presence on our soil? are these terrorists not impinging our sovereignty as well? why no outrage over that?

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  • MarkH
    Jan 23, 2012 - 6:08AM

    @Bitter Reality:
    If they gave that figure it’s a flat out lie. The number of casualties in general rarely reach the number 10 regardless of if people want to believe it was a militant/supporter or an innocent. Furthermore, many drone strikes are on moving vehicles. Not only just a vehicle, but ones that are usually similar to an open-back truck where they’re plainly seen. Is that to say they pick up a few random innocents every time they go for a ride?

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  • Mirza
    Jan 23, 2012 - 9:34AM

    Two faced establishment. They have one statement to fool Pakistani people and the actual cooperation with the US for money and arms.

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