Two drone strikes conducted in the tribal belt in early February seemed to be business as usual by the CIA. An official protest was even lodged by the foreign ministry against the strike that allegedly killed up to nine people, including two senior commanders of al Qaeda.
Be that as it may, according to three American officials with knowledge of the US drone programme there was one problem: the United States did not carry out those attacks, the New York Times reported.
“They were not ours,” said one of the US officials, requesting anonymity because of the drone programme’s secrecy. “We haven’t had any kinetic activity since January.”
What exactly took place in the tribal areas is unclear. But the Americans’ best guess is that one or possibly both of the strikes were carried out by the military and falsely attributed to the CIA to avoid criticism from the public – conjecture that was strongly refuted on Tuesday by the army.
An Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) spokesman said that such an accusation is a distortion of the facts and seems to be aimed at diluting Pakistan’s stance on drone strikes. The spokesperson went on to deny that the security forces had carried out any operation, including air strikes, in the area on dates mentioned in the news report.
On the other hand, the NYT correspondent Declan Walsh, who authored the story, issued a clarification on his Twitter account.
“Today’s story does not suggest Pak mil is conducting drone strikes. It does say US suspects air strikes – warplanes, etc,” the reporter said.
The ‘unclaimed’ strikes took place on February 6 and 8. Pakistan has consistently protested and condemned the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in its lawless tribal areas, saying such attacks violate the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2013.
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