Pakistan rejects expansion of US drone campaign

Published: November 21, 2010
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Washington Post says US seeks to expand drone 
attacks in areas surrounding Quetta

Washington Post says US seeks to expand drone attacks in areas surrounding Quetta

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan on Saturday said that it would not allow the United States to expand the drone operation on its soil.

“Action against militants in Pakistan’s territory will be carried out by Pakistan and under no circumstances will the drone attacks be allowed to expand,” said Foreign Office spokesperson Abdul Basit. He was responding to reports that the US is seeking to expand drone operations to Quetta.

Basit added that the US is well aware of the repercussions of expanding drone attacks to other regions within Pakistani territory.

The Washington Post reported late Friday that the US is seeking to expand the areas inside Pakistan where Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drones can operate. Unnamed US and Pakistani officials quoted in the report said the desire to expand drone attacks reflects concern that the US war effort in Afghanistan is being undermined by insurgents’ continued ability to take sanctuary across the border.

The US appeal has focused on the area surrounding Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban  leadership is thought to be based. But the request also seeks to expand the boundaries for drone strikes in the tribal areas, which have been targeted in 101 attacks this year, the officials said.

The report said that Pakistan has rejected the request but has agreed to take more modest measures, including an expanded CIA presence in Quetta, where the agency and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate have established teams seeking to locate and capture senior members of the Taliban.

Senior Pakistani officials expressed resentment over what they described as misplaced US pressure to do more, saying the US has not controlled the Afghan side of the border, is preoccupied by arbitrary military deadlines and has little regard for Pakistan’s internal security problems. “You expect us to open the skies for anything that you can fly,” said a high-ranking Pakistani intelligence official, who described the Quetta request as an affront to Pakistani sovereignty. “In which country can you do that?”

US officials confirmed the request for expanded drone flights. They cited concern that Quetta functions not only as a sanctuary for Taliban leaders but also as a base for sending money, recruits and explosives to Taliban forces inside Afghanistan.

“If they understand our side, they know patience is running out,” a senior Nato military official said.

Pakistan places strict boundaries on where CIA drones can fly. The unmanned aircraft may patrol designated flight “boxes” over the country’s tribal belt but not other
provinces, including Balochistan, which encompasses Quetta.

“They want to increase the size of the boxes, they want to relocate the boxes,” a second Pakistani intelligence official said of the latest US requests. “I don’t think we are going to go any further.”

He and others spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the clandestine nature of a programme that neither government will publicly acknowledge. Pakistani officials stressed that Quetta is a densely
populated city where an errant strike is more likely to kill innocent civilians, potentially provoking a backlash. US officials have long suspected there are other reasons for Islamabad’s aversion, including concern that the drones might be used to conduct surveillance of nuclear weapons facilities in Balochistan.

In interviews in Islamabad, senior Pakistani officials voiced a mix of appreciation and apprehension over the US role in the region.

The high-ranking Pakistani intelligence official said the CIA-ISI relationship is stronger than  it was at any time since the September 11, 2001, attacks, and that the two spy services carry out joint operations “almost on a daily basis.”

“I wish (our) countries understood each other the way the CIA and ISI understand each other,” the official said.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2010.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Noor
    Nov 20, 2010 - 3:02PM

    I simply fail to understand how does the foreign office define Pakistani territory’?
    Is WANA not in the Pakistani territory? Why, on earth, is NATO “droning” in the tribal areas?
    Are FATA and WANA not in the territory of Pakistan? What are their elected representatives doing in the parliament?
    These are lowest standards of double-standards. Shame, if anyone can still feel it!Recommend

  • Taha Ali Adil
    Nov 20, 2010 - 3:16PM

    OMG pakistan also have ” Foreign Office “.Recommend

  • Farrukh
    Nov 20, 2010 - 3:20PM

    FO should stop fooling people of Pakistan especially when the government cannot stop the ongoing drone attacks. Are they not violating our territory? If you can’t top them now, how can you prevent your masters from operating in Quetta region. FarrukhRecommend

  • Usman
    Nov 20, 2010 - 3:26PM

    Dont worry, the Drones coming to Lahore and Islamabad very soon too…Where is the proud army that doesnt want to tone down the Wahga Border antics? They are like the school bullys, ganging up on the bloody civilians but disgracefully pushed around by everyone from US to the SaudisRecommend

  • Pakistan One
    Nov 20, 2010 - 3:33PM

    $hower $ome dollars and you can fire at place in the country including the Presidency.Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Nov 20, 2010 - 3:51PM

    It seems that the situation is not deteriorating at the planned pace which has frustrated some elements within Indian and US establishment. They now plan to destabilize Balochistan at a fast track through drone attacks. Knowing full well that allied forces are not attacked from Quetta, some 80 miles from Afghan border, they have now decided to use drone to attack Quetta to target some Shura which only CIA knows of.Recommend

  • vasan
    Nov 20, 2010 - 4:26PM

    “Under no circumstances will the expansion of drone attacks be allowed, the Foreign Office said”
    I thought the Pak govt has not allowed the drone attacks in the first place. If so the attacks will start irrespective of what Pak govt says. If not Pak govt says something and does something else. Very typicalRecommend

  • imkarachi
    Nov 20, 2010 - 7:15PM

    Provide Drone technology to Pakistan and it will operate it themselves where ever needed Recommend

  • Nov 20, 2010 - 8:35PM

    those americans should drop thermobaric blu-82s on our largest population centers and the worlds terrorist problems would be over instantlyRecommend

  • Ahmer Ali
    Nov 21, 2010 - 10:51AM

    Assalam-o-Allaikum Warahmatullah.This is just because of aid’s Dollars USA and advanced Western countries begged us in this time of the need and this is the biggest weak point of foreign aid that you are fully under pressure of that countries on which you are dependent or you depend completely every time,especially whenever you face any natural disasters or calamities,in instead of relying on your own natural and mineral resources and above all the most importantly you don’t repent before Allah Almighty practically against your sins wrought by your own hands.How much more longer the nation shall have to pay the music and pay the price of begging aid in the form of Drone attacks to kill the mostly innocent muslims,especially old people,children and women on the name of terrorism and extremism,and handful terrorists and for how long these attacks shall be continued?Recommend

  • xyz
    Nov 21, 2010 - 11:29AM

    It means that Pakistan has officially given authority for drone attacks in certain ares.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Nov 21, 2010 - 6:51PM

    US forces are planning to hand over the country to Afghans by 2014. After that I can bet my fortune that Drone attacks will be expanded. Now, Pakistan has a leverage over the US in terns of Supply lines, which it foolishly halted a few times. After 2014, that leverage is gong to disappear.

    If Pakistani military doesn’t goes after armed militants, including and especially, anti-NATO and anti-India, then its safe to bet that the Drones are coming.Recommend

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