ISLAMABAD: The United States will not abandon its drone program in Pakistan but how it goes forward is a matter for US and Pakistani intelligence and military officials to determine, a US official said on Wednesday.
"The program is something that we have said we go ahead on. The question is how. And that process is going to be something that's going to be one of the main tasks that our intel and our military guys have," the official said, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity.
In the wake of the Raymond Davis incident, some Pakistani officials have called for sharp cuts in drone attacks, an issue that was raised in talks last week in Washington between CIA Director Leon Panetta and Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
"I'll pause from my normal optimism and say this is a tough one. This is a real tough one," the official said.
"Because that has been so inflamed in the public that the ability of our intelligence and our military guys to get together and say 'what's our common ground here?' is limited," he added.
US officials have privately said in the past that Washington would not consider demands by some Pakistani officials for sharp cuts in drone attacks or suggestions the United States should return to a Bush-era policy limiting the strikes to "high-value" militant targets.
Some observers say Pakistan's recent vitriol about CIA activities may be largely posturing a ploy to possibly extract more financial and military aid from the United States. But the issue of drones remains a sore point.