'Pak's quiet acquiescence to US drone attacks one of the worst kept secrets in the world'
Islamabad, Aug 4(ANI): The tacit acceptance of the United States' drone campaign on Pakistani soil by Pakistan's top military brass is one of the worst kept secrets in the world, according to an editorial in a Pakistani newspaper.
"A report that the recently departed CIA station chief in Pakistan ordered a drone attack the day after CIA contractor Raymond Davis was controversially released from prison is sure to create further ill-will among the two countries," an Express Tribune editorial said.
"It is one of the worst kept secrets in the world that Pakistan has quietly acquiesced to the American use of drones. But this latest report clearly takes things too far and is sure to lead to further strains in an already beleaguered relationship," it added.
Earlier, a diplomatic cable unveiled by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks had revealed that Pakistan's top military brass had requested America in January 2008 for greater drone back-up for its own military operations.
In a meeting on January 22, 2008 with US CENTCOM Commander Admiral William J. Fallon, Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani requested the Americans to provide "continuous Predator coverage of the conflict area" in South Waziristan where the army was conducting operations against militants.
The meeting report sent back to Washington by the then US Ambassador Anne Patterson on February 11, 2008, said that Admiral Fallon "regretted that he did not have the assets to support this request", but offered trained US Marines (known as JTACs) to coordinate air strikes for Pakistani infantry forces on ground.
According to the confidential cable, General Kayani "demurred" on the offer, pointing out that having US soldiers on ground "would not be politically acceptable."
In another meeting with US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen over March 3-4, 2008, Kayani was asked for his help "in approving a third Restricted Operating Zone for US aircraft over the FATA."
The request - detailed in a cable sent from the US Embassy Islamabad on March 24 - clearly indicates that two 'corridors' for US drones had already been approved earlier.
Despite the occasionally disastrously misdirected attacks that have fed into the public hue and cry over civilian casualties, there seems to be general acceptance by the military of the efficacy of drone strikes in private.
In a cable dated February 19, 2009, in which Ambassador Patterson sent talking points to Washington ahead of a week-long visit to the US by Kayani, referring to drone strikes, she wrote: "Kayani knows full well that the strikes have been precise (creating few civilian casualties) and targeted primarily at foreign fighters in the Waziristans."
Previously leaked diplomatic cables have already revealed that Pakistan's civilian leaders are strongly supportive - in private - of the drone strikes on alleged militant targets in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), even as they condemn them for general consumption. (ANI)
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