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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pakistan demands that U.S. stop drone attacks



At least this is so according to Bloomberg's Business Week. The report is based upon statements by anonymous U.S. officials.According to the article the officials must remain anonymous because the drone program is classified. I doubt that the officials would want to reveal who they are in any event when they are reporting on ongoing talks!

The use of drones has been a key part of Obama's counter terror strategy especially in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman met with Antony Blinken national security adviser on March 9. She told him that Pakistan's political parties agree that the drone flights must end. The parliament actually passed a motion demanding the drone attacks end ages ago. After a pause of several months they are now happening again.

The drone attacks are seen as a violation of Pakistani airspace as well as being responsible for the deaths of many civilians as collateral damage. Public opinion is heavily in favor of ending the missions.

The attacks are unlikely to end. The U.S. provided 4.4 billion dollars in aid in 2010. This aid can be used as leverage to force Pakistan into some sort of explicit or implicit agreement that the attacks continue

Pakistan is pressing for an agreement that would have the U.S. agree to share intelligence about the strikes and carry out the attacks only in coordination with the Pakistani military and intelligence. So far the U.S. has refused to give information to Pakistan fearing that targets might be forewarned of attacks. This complete lack of trust makes the situation even worse.

In spite of the questionable legality let alone morality of the drone attacks, Obama has greatly increased their use compared to Bush. In 2008 under Bush there were only 35 attacks. Under Obama there were 117 in 2010.

Pakistan has constantly complained of the attacks but secretly approved them and even helped with targeting. However relations now are very strained. The killing of Bin Laden with no coordination or prior notice to Pakistan is one irritant. The killing of 2 Pakistanis by a CIA contractor is another. Finally there was the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a border incident. This time the Pakistani's may be serious. Personally, I doubt that the U.S. will agree to stop the attacks. However, having another tacit agreement may be politically difficult for Pakistani politicians. For more see this article.

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