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US Seeks Expansion of Drone Operations in Pakistan


An MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle takes off from Creech Air Force Base, Nev., for a training sortie over the Nevada desert, USA (file photo)

An MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle takes off from Creech Air Force Base, Nev., for a training sortie over the Nevada desert, USA (file photo)

A leading U.S. newspaper says the U.S. wants to expand the area within Pakistan where Central Intelligence Agency drones can operate.

The Washington Post, citing unnamed U.S. and Pakistani officials, reported late Friday the U.S. appeal is focused on the areas surrounding the Pakistani city of Quetta and tribal areas.

The newspaper says U.S. officials believe Quetta is not only a Taliban sanctuary, but also serves as a base for sending money, recruits and explosives to Taliban forces inside Afghanistan.

A Pakistani official said Saturday Islamabad will not allow an expansion of drone attacks beyond tribal areas, and only tolerates those attacks.

The Washington Post reported that Pakistan rejected the U.S. appeal, but agreed to an expanded CIA presence in Quetta where the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence have teams working together to capture senior Taliban members.

The newspaper account says the two countries disagree on the importance of Quetta. The paper says the U.S. believes Quetta is home to a leadership council that presides over the Afghan Taliban.

In contrast, a senior Pakistan military official told The Washington Post, while he does not deny the presence of individual Taliban around Quetta, he said it is - in his words - "far-fetched" to create the impression of a "body micromanaging the affairs of the Afghan Taliban."

The newspaper says Pakistani officials are resentful about the U.S. request, questioning why Pakistan is being asked to do more when the U.S. has failed to control the Afghan side of the border.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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