Thursday, March 29, 2012

White House offers concessions on drone attacks

The CIA’s drone program, in the last eight years, has killed an estimated 2,223 Taliban, al-Qaeda and other suspected militants with 289 strikes, peaking at 117 strikes throughout 2010. — File Photo

WASHINGTON: In a bid to save the CIA’s drone campaign against al-Qaeda in Pakistan, US officials offered key concessions to Pakistan’s spy chief that included advance notice and limits on the types of targets.

But the offers were flatly rejected, leaving US-Pakistani relations strained as President Barack Obama prepares to meet Tuesday with Pakistan’s prime minister.

CIA Director David Petraeus, who met with Pakistan’s then-spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha at a meeting in London in January, offered to give Pakistan advance notice of future CIA drone strikes against targets on its territory in a bid to keep Pakistan from blocking the strikes, arguably one of the most potent US tools against al-Qaeda.

The CIA chief also offered to apply new limits on the types of targets hit, said a senior US intelligence official briefed on the meetings. No longer would large groups of armed men rate near-automatic action, as they had in the past, one of the so-called “signature” strikes, where CIA targeters deemed certain groups and behaviour as clearly indicative of militant activity. Read More