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February 05, 2014

Report: US Curtails Drone Strikes After Pakistan Request

by Brian Allen

Pakistan's government has asked the United States to halt drone strikes against suspected extremists as Islamabad pursues negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban - and, according to The Washington Post, the U.S. has agreed.  

U.S. news organizations say the use of drones in Pakistan has dropped dramatically - the Obama administration has not launched a drone strike in the South Asian country since December.
It is said to be the second-longest interruption in U.S. drone activity in Pakistan since a six-week halt in 2011.

The Washington Post quotes a U.S. official as saying Pakistan's government asked for “restraint” as it pushes forward with peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban.

“That’s what they asked for, and we didn’t tell them no,” the unidentified official told the newspaper.

Speaking on the record, U.S. officials have not confirmed a halt in drone attacks or any link to a Pakistani request.

Dan Feldman, the State Department's Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, spoke with VOA’s Urdu Service.

“I can only tell you we can never comment about operation details of something, particularly an alleged program. But the president has made a real effort to try to better define that program altogether," said Feldman.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was slated to begin peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban last November, but that was scuttled when a U.S. drone strike killed top Pakistani Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud.

A member of Pakistan's National Assembly, Sheikh Rohail Asghar, said in an interview with VOA's Urdu service that a suspension of drone-launched missile strikes is welcome.

“The last peace talks were halted because of a drone strike. And when the ongoing peace talks began, Pakistan maintained that this time there should not be any incident that could derail the peace process. So, if the United States has seriously taken this issue, it is welcoming for us and I am glad that Pakistan has successfully gotten its point across.” said Asghar.

A Pentagon spokesmen declined to confirm a halt to drone attacks and indicated the U.S. remains ready to strike those who threaten its interests.

“Our policy remains the same, that we will continue to pursue threats to American security," said Colonel Steve Warren.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said he wants the drone strikes to cease entirely.