Pakistan to US: Drone Flights Must End

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Common Dreams

Pakistan to US: Drone Flights Must End

Blow to US 'War on Terror'

by
Common Dreams staff

Pakistan on Tuesday told the United States it will no longer permit US drones to use Pakistan's airspace to launch attacks or collect intelligence, a media report said.

Pakistan Ambassador to Washington Sherry Rehman met Vice President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Antony Blinken on March 9th. She told him Pakistan’s political parties had agreed that the drone flights over Pakistan must end, the Bloomberg news service said, citing unnamed US officials.

“Pakistan’s sovereignty over its airspace and the civilian casualties that have resulted from drone strikes are emotional issues in Pakistan, where public opinion heavily favours terminating drone missions,” the report cited Pakistani officials as saying. “The US will try to reach a point with Pakistani leaders,” two US officials said. “The only chance for a compromise,” Pakistani officials said, “may be if the US agrees to share intelligence and coordinate strikes first, a strategy Pakistan has long advocated.” The US has resisted giving information to Pakistan in advance because of fears that some in Pakistan’s security forces might warn the targets of impending strikes, the report said.

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Bloomberg News reports:

Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Sherry Rehman, met Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Antony Blinken on March 9 and told him that Pakistan’s political parties have agreed that the drone flights over Pakistan must end, officials involved said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks were private. [...]

The U.S. will try to reach an accommodation with Pakistani leaders, two American officials said. The U.S. gave Pakistan $4.4 billion in economic assistance, counterinsurgency funding and military reimbursements in 2010, according to the Congressional Research Service.

If the U.S. were to continue flying drone missions without Pakistani permission, some Pakistani military officials suggested last year that Pakistan would be within its rights to shoot them down.The only chance for a compromise, Pakistani officials said, may be if the U.S. agrees to share intelligence and coordinate strikes first, a strategy Pakistan has long advocated. The U.S. has resisted giving information to Pakistan in advance because of fears that some in Pakistan’s security forces might warn the targets of impending strikes. [...]

Singer said that “for several years, Pakistan has openly said, ‘How dare you violate our sovereignty,’ but it turned out the CIA was flying from Pakistani bases with Pakistan’s permission.”

This time, it’s possible “they really mean it,” after a series of high-profile disputes have damaged relations, said Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at The Brookings Institution in Washington.
Frayed by Controversies

U.S. officials are being dispatched to meet with Rehman today to discuss the dispute over drone missions and other sticking points in an alliance frayed by numerous controversies. Those have included the U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden without first informing the Pakistani government and the killing of two Pakistanis by a CIA contractor. [...]

The border attack spurred Pakistan’s political parties to form a parliamentary committee to review the U.S. relationship. A decision on whether to permit drone missions is one of the most anticipated elements of the review, which has not been made public.

Pakistani officials said the committee will present its recommendations to a closed session of parliament as early as March 19, and lawmakers will have an opportunity to debate and amend the recommendations. Pakistan’s leaders are expected to share the review with the U.S. by the end of this month, officials on both sides said. [...]

If the U.S. were to continue flying drone missions without Pakistani permission, some Pakistani military officials suggested last year that Pakistan would be within its rights to shoot them down.

What happens in Pakistan may have ripple effects for U.S. drone programs around the world, in places including Somalia, Yemen and the Philippines, he said.

Testifying before Congress last week, Marine Corps General James Mattis, the head of U.S. Central Command, expressed confidence that the U.S. and Pakistan will overcome tensions.

“We do have a problematic at times relationship with Pakistan. That does not prevent us from working it. And there’s a lot of common ground that we use -- that we operate off of together against this enemy. We don’t have 100 percent common ground about it, but it is not a show stopper,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee on March 7.

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