Behind the scenes: Drone strikes will end soon, Obama assures Nawaz

Published: October 25, 2013
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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Obama greeting each other ahead of Wednesday’s meeting. PHOTO: APP

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Obama greeting each other ahead of Wednesday’s meeting. PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: 

While any mention of the drone issue was conspicuously missing in their joint statement, US President Barack Obama has privately assured Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that the controversial programme will end soon, according to a senior Pakistani official.

The official, who was accompanying the prime minister on his just-concluded visit to Washington, told The Express Tribune that ‘significant progress’ has been made on the drone issue.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, he said Washington was considering ending the drone campaign once the “few remaining targets” had been eliminated from Pakistan’s tribal belt. According to the official, President Obama told Prime Minister Nawaz that the CIA had already eliminated most of the high-value targets (HVTs) from the region.

Although the American president did not give a timeline for halting the drone campaign, Islamabad expects the unilateral strikes will end in a matter of months, he said.

Another source, meanwhile, pointed out that, unlike previous assessments, the Obama administration informed the new government that the drone programme would not continue beyond 2014.

Nawaz Sharif, who was on a first bilateral trip to US since his party swept to power following the May 11 elections, raised the issue of drone strikes in his meeting with Obama. But the US president remained silent on the matter at the joint news conference at the Oval Office in the White House.

Behind closed doors, however, Obama assured Premier Nawaz that drone strikes would only be used as a last option, claimed the senior official. He said the US president also said that he had directed the CIA to ensure greater transparency in conducting the strikes and avoiding collateral damage while eliminating the remaining HVTs.

The Express Tribune has also learnt that the US may temporarily suspend drone strikes in the tribal areas in an effort to allow the government to conduct peace talks with the Taliban.

Prime Minister Nawaz himself hinted on Thursday that the drone issue would “settle down somehow.”

“Hopefully, the drone issue will be resolved according to the wishes of the Pakistani people soon… There was definitely some progress on the matter [during the meetings] and I think this issue will now settle down somehow,” he said while talking to reporters during a brief stopover in London on his return to Pakistan.

Earlier, Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had also hinted at a possible end to drone attacks.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Aziz claimed that the US administration had given assurances to consider Islamabad’s request on drone attacks behind the scenes. He did not give further details, however.

The US considers the drone programme as crucial to eradicate high value targets associated with al Qaeda and the Taliban from the tribal areas.

Pakistan has publicly condemned such strikes and in recent years has been more vocal against the CIA-led campaign.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Anjaan
    Oct 25, 2013 - 6:35AM

    Drone attacks in Pakistan will end with American exit from the region by the end of 2014 ….. what is the rocket science about it …… ?

    But with the exit of the Americans, and the end of drone attacks, Pakistan’s world will also change for ever….. there will not be free lunch, no easy money in generous American aid …… the Pakistanis will realize how difficult it is to earn every dollar …… the people of India are eagerly waiting for those days ……Recommend

  • Truth
    Oct 25, 2013 - 6:47AM

    Not according to another local daily. According to it US officials have said that they will decide and that drone stacks will continue. So who is telling the truth? For once ET should speak without a forked tongue and stop being such a sycophantic brown noser.

    Recommend

  • Last Word
    Oct 25, 2013 - 9:52AM

    What goes behind the scene is unauthenticated and cannot be taken as gospel truth especially, when the same is coming from a Pakistani official who might be making such statements as face saving exercise for gullible public consumption, who had high hopes that drone attacks would be completely stopped after their PM visit to US. As far as US is concerned, it has made no commitment to stop drone attacks instead their spokes-person Carney categorically stated that drones are precision, lawful and effective which would continued to be used till all valuable targets are completely eliminated.

    Recommend

  • Ashkenazi
    Oct 25, 2013 - 11:18AM

    Viva amnesia.

    Recommend

  • S.R.H. Hashmi
    Oct 25, 2013 - 11:21AM

    “Although the American president did not give a timeline for halting the drone campaign, Islamabad expects the unilateral strikes will end in a matter of months”

    The above statement attributed to a senior unnamed Pakistani official accompanying Nawaz Sharif on his trip to America reminds me of a joke about an actress who, when asked about her age, said twenty years and some months, and on being queried further on the number of months, gave it as one hundred twenty.

    What a shame the senior official was not asked the number of months that he had in mind.

    Karachi

    Recommend

  • Toba Alu
    Oct 25, 2013 - 11:41AM

    Why spraying your neighbour’s field with herbicides, if you abandon growing crops yourself.

    Recommend

  • Salman Ahmed
    Oct 25, 2013 - 12:56PM

    The most important thing is that the drone strikes will end when the US decide that there is no need for them….not what Pakistan or Nawaz Sharif was able to convince the government about.

    Sad that this impotence is shown in a positive light.

    Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Oct 25, 2013 - 3:56PM

    Good thinking by some; besides who will transmit the coordinates for the targets once the NATO forces pull out? The polio workers are no longer allowed in the Taliban land. Also once the tornado season starts, the drones after receiving the signals also return the signals which have caused more damage for the Obama team. And whose technology it was in American drones? It were the German Engineers who developed this unmanned machine during the time of Hitler third reich, but not used for technical shortcomings. The yanks made use of it in the territory which is almost air traffic free. In other words the beast can only be used in air traffic free skies. The German Government has postponed the Engineering improvements required.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Caresless Whispers
    Oct 25, 2013 - 5:04PM

    @Anjaan: We will Survive & get ready to eat ur own words…

    Recommend

  • ModiFied
    Oct 25, 2013 - 8:27PM

    Please watch the truth in this video from the horses’ mouth;

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8nBjbNSOWM

    Recommend

  • Ihsan
    Oct 25, 2013 - 11:28PM
  • Anjaan
    Oct 26, 2013 - 6:54AM

    @ careless whisperer,

    I never doubted of your survival ….. but how …. by eating grass as late Bhutto promised … ?Recommend

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