24 December 2011
'CIA halts drone raids on Pakistan'

Press TV


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has halted its assassination drone attacks on Pakistan's tribal regions in an effort to mend fences with the Asian ally, a report says.

The undeclared suspension of the CIA attacks is aimed at improving the strained relations with Islamabad after recent US-led NATO airstrikes on two Pakistani military border checkpoints in Mohmand agency killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The United States conducted a joint investigation with the NATO military alliance, claiming that a disastrous spate of errors and botched communications led to the incident. Pakistan, however, rejected the results of the probe.

The strikes prompted the Pakistani officials to close the border crossings that the Western military alliance uses to transfer fuel and other supplies for foreign forces in Afghanistan.

The decision to suspend the drone attacks also comes amid intensifying debates in the Obama administration over the future of the CIA's covert drone war in Pakistan, the paper said.

This is while, some officials in the State Department and the National Security Council have described the drone strikes as counterproductive, saying the ordinary militants are easy to replace, the report added.

Some US intelligence officials are urging the CIA to cut back the paramilitary role it has assumed since the September 11, 2001 to refocus on espionage.

They suggest handing the mission to the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command, which flies its own drones and conducts secret counter-terrorism operations in Yemen and Somalia.

The US aerial attacks, initiated by former US President George W. Bush, have escalated under President Barack Obama.

Relations between Islamabad and Washington have soured over the unauthorized attacks, with Pakistan insisting that the airstrikes violate its sovereignty.

Following the US-led NATO attack in Pakistan's Mohmand region, Islamabad warned that it will shoot down any American assassination drone intruding its airspace.

While the US government has always declined to publicly discuss its aerial attacks in Pakistan, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted on October 11 that the US is fighting a war in Pakistan, using drones.

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