Baghdad, Jan 30 (ANI): Iraqi officials have expressed anger over American surveillance drones patrolling over its skies to protect the US embassy and consulates in the country.
Senior Iraqi officials criticized the move, saying the unarmed aircraft are an affront to Iraqi sovereignty.
According to The New York Times, when embassy personnel move throughout the country, small helicopters buzz over the convoys to provide support in case of an attack. Often, two contractors, armed with machine guns, are tethered to the outside of the helicopters.
The State Department began operating some drones in Iraq last year on a trial basis, and stepped up their use after the last American troops left Iraq in December, taking the military drones with them.
According to the paper, a senior American official said negotiations were on obtain authorization for the current drone operations, but Ali al-Mosawi, a top adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, Falih al-Fayadh, Iraq's national security adviser, and the acting minister of interior, Adnan al-Asadi, all aid they had not been consulted by the US.
"Our sky is our sky, not the USA's sky," Asadi said, adding that he opposed the drone program.
The drone program has been described by the State Department's diplomatic security branch in a little-noticed section of its most recent annual report and outlined in broad terms prospectus for companies that might bid on a contract to manage the program.
According to the paper, American contractors said they have been told that the State Department is considering to field unarmed surveillance drones in the future in a handful of other potentially "high-threat" countries, including Indonesia and Pakistan, and in Afghanistan after the bulk of American troops leave in the next two years.
State Department officials, however, said that no decisions have been made beyond the drone operations in Iraq. (ANI)
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