Munter was overruled on halting drone strike: Report

Published: August 3, 2011
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US envoy was worried that the strike’s timing will hurt Pak-US ties.

US envoy was worried that the strike’s timing will hurt Pak-US ties.

ISLAMABAD: 

US envoy Cameron Munter had a heated argument with the CIA station chief in March 2011 over a proposed drone strike against militants on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday. The envoy wanted him to call off the strike, fearing that its timing – coming only a day after Islamabad freed CIA contractor Raymond Davis – would further damage ties with Pakistan. But the CIA station chief and his bosses turned down the request.

The Associated Press noted that the March 17 attack helped send the US-Pakistan relationship into a tailspin from which it has not recovered.

“When the doors are closed they are shouting at each other, but once the doors are open they are congenial in front of the embassy staff,” said one official.

The hard-charging station chief also clashed with the head of the Inter Services Intelligence, over drone strikes, said a Pakistani official.

A US official familiar with the issue played down the tension. “It is very, very rare for the chief of mission to express concern about any particular operation,” the official said, referring to the ambassador. “When concerns are raised, they’re always given close consideration.”

Munter must sign off on every planned drone attack in Pakistan, although he rarely voices an objection, said a former aide to the ambassador. If Munter disagrees with a planned strike, the CIA director can appeal to him, said two US officials.

Clinton can also weigh in, and has done so at least once, one US official said. On March 17, Munter used the embassy’s secure line in an attempt to stop an imminent drone strike. His concern was that the strike would set back Washington’s already shaky relations with Islamabad, said the former aide and a senior US official. The Davis case had left bad feelings on both sides. On January 27 in Lahore, Davis shot to death two Pakistanis who he said were trying to rob him, enraging many people in a country where anti-American sentiment is high. The US insisted Davis had immunity from prosecution, but he was not released until March 16 under a deal that compensated the victims’ families. Pakistan’s security agencies came under intense domestic criticism for freeing him.

Munter’s request went to the State Department and was forwarded to then-CIA director Panetta, now secretary of defence, who insisted on going ahead, said the officials. It is unclear whether Clinton was involved in the decision. The former aide said the strike reflected the CIA’s anger at the ISI, which it blamed for keeping Davis in prison for seven weeks. “It was in retaliation for Davis,” the aide said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Naeem Siddiqui
    Aug 3, 2011 - 10:12AM

    CIA can make president of United States of America (commander in-chief of US armed forces) to tell lie to American people and world that Raymond Davis was a diplomat.

    CIA can overrule US Ambassador’s orders who were appointed by president of United States of America.

    Interesting!! Some people will still say America is a democracy :)

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  • Zahid Qureshi
    Aug 3, 2011 - 12:50PM

    So the fact is that Mr. Munter objected only once Mr. Munter: Can you please share with us the secret of your peaceful sleep when a drone attack kills Women, Children & innocents who have no right of a fair trial in a court of law?

    Please also let us know how these poor people bordering Afghanistan make a plan to destabilize USA? I mean what technology do they have that can not save them from Drones but is threat to USA?

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  • Omair Shakil
    Aug 3, 2011 - 2:20PM

    The United States is directly/indirectly responsible for most of the strife in the world today. In fact they have made it a lucrative industry for themselves.

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  • Hedgefunder
    Aug 3, 2011 - 2:34PM

    Its obvious, that munter is out of his depth.
    Why should the Drone Strikes be halted?? After all their partners have always shown their reluctance and inabilty to deal with the Safe Heavens for their Stategic Assets!!1
    So how else can this war on terror be won??
    Especially in the light of one partners duplicity and deceit to actually take positive action, against these people!!!!

    Recommend

  • sashayub
    Aug 3, 2011 - 2:59PM

    @Zahid Qureshi:
    maybe a lack of morality, or the total absence thereof? maybe that’s why he got the job in the first place

    Recommend

  • Zahid Qureshi
    Aug 3, 2011 - 6:47PM

    @Naeem Siddiqui: Excellent comment….
    CIA can make president of United States of America (commander in-chief of US armed forces) to tell lie to American people and world that Raymond Davis was a diplomat.

    Recommend

  • Hedgefunder
    Aug 3, 2011 - 8:12PM

    @Zahid Qureshi:
    Well everyone that mattered within pakistan knew the facts related to Davis !!
    It should be viewed in different light , that Davis was acknowledged as diplomat in order to save embarrassment to the Pak Govt, which may have been asked lot of awkward questions as to how many Davis’s were around in Pakistan, with approval and knowledge of the Govt!!!!!Recommend

  • Cautious
    Aug 4, 2011 - 1:21AM

    @Hedgefunder

    Well everyone that mattered within
    pakistan knew the facts related to
    Davis !

    Does that include the Foreign Minister — the top foreign diplomat who is admitted that Davis was protected by Diplomatic Immunity. and was summarily fired because he dared stand up for international law against the wishes of the ISI?

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  • Hedgefunder
    Aug 4, 2011 - 2:15AM

    @Cautious:
    I leave that to your imagination, as this is Pakistan!!!

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  • Maulana Diesel
    Aug 4, 2011 - 8:00AM

    @Hedgefunder….dude rather than writing your comments on ET you should be sending out your CV because your job is toast after Italy, spain and france default on their debt and the euro is no more. Why don’t you apply for a job at the ISI, maybe they need an accountant.

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