By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
15 April, 2011
US resumes Drone attacks in Pakistan as CIA turns down ISI plea to halt controversial strikes
After a brief lull, US has resumed Drone attacks in Pakistan. At least eight people were killed Wednesday in two US drone strikes at Angoor Adda in South Waziristan Agency. The attack came just one day after a Washington meeting between CIA Director Leon Panetta and Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the chief of Inter-Services Intelligence agency, who called for an end to the strikes that have caused deep anger in Pakistan.
According to media reports, two unmanned planes fired at least four missiles at a house and two vehicles. The first drone attack was on a house and in the second attack a car and a motorcycle were targeted at Baghar village in Angoor Adda, around six km from the border with Afghanistan.
It was the first drone attack since March 17 in which 50 people attending a pro-government jirga meeting were killed in Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders strongly protested over the attack.
According to DAWN, a leading Pakistani newspaper, the timing of the latest attack is meaningful because it took place at a time when ISI chief Gen Shuja Pasha was on his way home from Washington after talks with his counterpart, CIA Director Leon Panetta. Gen Pasha had called for limiting the scope of drone attacks to North Waziristan as a precondition for reviving the stalled counter-terrorism cooperation.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. hasn't committed to adjusting the drone program in response to Pakistan's request. “The CIA operates covertly, meaning the program doesn't require Islamabad's support, under U.S. law. Some officials say the CIA operates with relative autonomy in the tribal areas. They played down the level of support they now receive from Pakistani intelligence.”
AFP quoted an unnamed US official as saying: “Panetta has been clear with his Pakistani counterparts that his fundamental responsibility is to protect the American people, and he will not halt operations that support that objective.”
IPS quoted Anatol Lieven, a specialist at Kings College, Cambridge as saying that "The Pakistanis are in a deeply humiliating position" in regard to the drone strikes. He said the military leadership no longer trusts the Americans' judgment on the program, in part because the strikes are killing people in North Waziristan who are willing to make a deal to end their fight against the Pakistani military and government. Drone attacks doubled in the area last year, with more than 100 drone strikes killing over 670 people in 2010 compared with 45 strikes that killed 420 in 2009, according to an AFP tally.
Drone attacks with Pakistan’s tacit approval
The CIA's drone attacks come under an arrangement in which Pakistani officials deny involvement in the strikes and criticize them publicly, even as Pakistan's intelligence agency secretly relays targeting information to the CIA and allowed the agency to operate from its territory.
Not surprisingly, the leaked cables quote former US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson confirmed this arrangement. A leaked cable said: (Interior Minister Rehman) Malik suggested we hold off alleged Predator attacks until after the Bajaur operation. The PM brushed aside Rehman’s remarks and said “I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”
In a hypocritical statement Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told the National Assembly on Wednesday that Pakistan is engaging friendly countries to exert diplomatic pressure on the Unites States to stop drone attacks on its Tribal Area.
Dawn reported that the CIA-ISI cooperation has been on hold since January when CIA operative Raymond Davis fatally shot two ISI agents in Lahore. The paper said the two agencies were close to resolving their operational differences last month (Davis release being part of that deal), but drone attacks on a jirga one day after the release killed the prospects for a rapprochement. However, fresh efforts were made to normalize the ties and Gen Pasha’s visit to Washington was an effort in that direction.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner acknowledged Tuesday that the 47-day detention of CIA contractor Raymond Allen Davis has made relations more difficult. “Certainly, the US and Pakistan remain strategic partners. We’ve got a shared commitment to strengthening our bilateral relationship. And we have been through a difficult period. I think, other people, individuals and US officials have acknowledged that including ambassador Cameron Munter,” Toner said at the daily briefing. “And we are working to get relationship back on track. We are looking to renew the relationship in a way and getting past difficulty that Raymond Davis case caused,” he added in response to a question about the current state of relations between the two countries.
To borrow Dave Lindorff, for all the US hyperventilating against Shariah law in Muslim countries, it was by applying Pakistan’s Shariah Law on the use of death payments to victims’ families that the US got Davis sprung. But he was not freed before virtually everyone in Pakistan had begun calling for his trial and execution, and not before it became clear that he, and the rest of the US spy army in Pakistan, was actually involved in subverting civil authority in that country, as Lindorff said.
The frayed relationship was the focus of a nearly four-hour meeting Monday at CIA headquarters between agency director Leon E Panetta and Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate. Although both sides cited progress, media reports said there were also indications that major points of disagreement remain unresolved.
Washington Post quoted US officials as saying that the CIA is considering greater coordination and information sharing to help restore a once-promising relationship with Pakistan’s intelligence agency that was badly damaged by Raymond Davis case. “The modest CIA concessions come at a time when the agency and its Pakistani counterpart seem increasingly at odds over the scale and direction of the covert war against al-Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal belt,” the Post said.
The Pakistanis want the American agency to identify all its employees in Pakistan and shrink its overall agency staff, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.
The agency’s willingness to disclose the names and assignments of more of its operatives is designed to quell Pakistani anger, the Post said. Under the new terms, the agency is expected to provide information on contractors in the country and on some — but not all — of the staff officers who serve undercover as part of the CIA’s clandestine service, it said.
The United States had increased the number of "unilateral" intelligence personnel in Pakistan - those who were not specifically involved in joint intelligence efforts - by at least a few hundred in late 2010 and early 2011, according to IPS.
ISI officials say the agency’s joint counterterrorist operations with the CIA have been on hold since Davis was arrested, with cooperation limited to some sharing of information.
According to leaked US embassy cables, a small teams of US special forces soldiers were secretly embedded with Pakistan’s military forces in the tribal regions, helping to hunt down Taliban and al Qaeda fighters and co-ordinate drone strikes in the area.
“The Pakistani Army has for just the second time approved deployment of US special operation elements to support Pakistani military operations. The first deployment, with SOC(FWD)-PAK elements embedded with the Frontier Corps in XXXXXXXXXXXX (location blocked), occurred in September (reftel). Previously, the Pakistani military leadership adamantly opposed letting us embed our special operations personnel with their military forces,” one of the cables’ summary stated.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner Tuesday acknowledged that a 300-strong contingent is “helping train the Pakistani military.”
Now the question arises, why all this propaganda about Pakistan Army’s demand to stop or cut down drone attacks which killed over 670 people in 2010 in 100 strikes. According to Dawn, it was only for public posturing since “the US pays for what it wants and we give it to them, holding our nose and counting the cash.”
The paper said “in such a relationship you don’t get to have your complaints heard….Cash-strapped as we are, we cannot tell the US to keep its foreign aid and we’ll keep our sovereignty, thank you very much….The army, for its part, knows that its complaints amount only to public posturing. We went through this whole charade with army opposition to the Kerry-Lugar Bill, where it was made clear that the army did not like being dictated to by the US. Yet it, and the country, ended up accepting the aid and the (humiliating) conditions attached to it and the issue is a forgotten one. As was the case then, the army’s main motive was to make its displeasure known domestically.”
This message was also driven home by State Department spokesman Mark Toner when he said we give $1.5 billion annually under Kerry Lugar Act. This is in addition to billions of dollars given to Pakistan’s mercenary army under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), a US program designed to reimburse countries for costs incurred in counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations. According Lieutenant Colonel Michael Shavers, Director of Public Affairs, Office of the Defense Representative in Pakistan, since 2001, the United States has reimbursed Pakistan approximately $8.87 billion in the CSF.
Business Recorder reports Pakistan has not received a single dollar under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) so far this year. The most recently, more than $633 million was released to the government of Pakistan on December 24, 2010. This reimbursement covers the period of January to June 2010.
Probably, Lt. General Pasha’s visit to Washington was also aimed at quick US reimbursements for army’s brutal operation against its own people in Swat, Dir and FATA that continues behind a smoke screen. Millions have been displaced while the number of casualties is unknown as media and human rights organizations is not allowed to report what is going on there.