NYT: Pakistan and Obama Working Closely on Drone Attacks

Image: NYT: Pakistan and Obama Working Closely on Drone Attacks

Thursday, 24 Oct 2013 07:57 AM

By Elliot Jager

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In using drones to destroy Pakistani-based militants who pose a threat to the United States and its regional interests, both the Bush and Obama administrations have had the explicit – scarcely secret – consent of authorities in Islamabad.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that it has obtained diplomatic memos proving that "Despite repeatedly denouncing the CIA's drone campaign, top officials in Pakistan's government have for years secretly endorsed the program."

Relations with Pakistan since 9/11 have not been straightforward. The charade of publicly criticizing the bombings by remotely piloted aircraft, while privately now and again helping to select targets, is emblematic of the unsettled nature of the U.S-Pakistan alliance. It also spotlights the murky connection between that country's civilian rulers and its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Agency. ISI is believed to control Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

The Pakistani intelligence community supports some terrorists groups some of the time, and opposes those same groups – some of the time. It mostly backs militants fighting India but is ambivalent toward al-Qaida. ISA has generally encouraged U.S. strikes against foreign militants aligned with al-Qaida, though the May 2011 Navy SEAL mission that liquidated Osama bin Laden infuriated the Pakistani's.

After meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House Wednesday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told a Washington audience that Pakistan – with the third largest Muslim population in the world – wants drone strikes to end, saying they "have deeply disturbed and agitated our people."

Those bombings have killed thousands of terrorists and also hundreds of civilians, according to the Post. White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged Tuesday that there had been civilian casualties.

The CIA reportedly launches some strikes, even when the identities of those to be killed is not firmly established, based on what amounts to analytical guesswork, the Post reported.

Sharif may be trying to renegotiate the not-so-secret drone agreement made between George W. Bush and a predecessor, Pervez Musharraf, the National Journal reported.

Observers noted the absence of Pakistan's influential intelligence boss, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, from the delegation accompanying Sharif.

In trying to again reboot Pakistan-US relations, the Obama administration will release more than $1.5 billion in aid to Islamabad, The New York Times reported.

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