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اتوار، 21 نومبر، 2010

US-Pakistan tension rises over drones

The United States has renewed pressure on Pakistan to expand the areas where CIA drones can operate inside the country.
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The US appeal has focused on the area surrounding the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban leadership is thought to be based. But the request also seeks to expand the boundaries for drone strikes in the tribal areas, which have been targeted in 101 attacks this year. However, Pakistan has rejected the request. Instead, the country has agreed to more modest measures, including an expanded CIA presence in Quetta, where the agency and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate have established teams seeking to locate and capture senior members of the Taliban.
The disagreement over the scope of the drone program underscores broader tensions between the United States and Pakistan, wary allies that are increasingly pointing fingers at one another over the rising levels of insurgent violence on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Senior Pakistani officials expressed resentment over what they described as misplaced US pressure to do more, saying that the United States has not controlled the Afghan side of the border, while it has little regard for Pakistan's internal security problems.
US officials cited concern that Quetta functions not only as a sanctuary for Taliban leaders but also as a base for sending money, recruits and explosives to Taliban forces inside Afghanistan.
The CIA's drone campaign in Pakistan has accelerated dramatically in recent months, with 47 attacks recorded since the beginning of September. But Pakistan places strict boundaries on where CIA drones can fly. The unmanned aircraft may patrol designated flight areas over the country's tribal belt but not other provinces, including Baluchistan Province, whose capital is Quetta.
Pakistani officials stressed that Quetta is a densely populated city where an errant strike is more likely to kill innocent civilians, potentially provoking a backlash. However, US officials have long suspected there are other reasons for Islamabad's aversion, including concern that the drones might be used to conduct surveillance of Pakistani nuclear weapons facilities in Baluchistan. The US drone attacks have so far claimed more than 3,000 Pakistanis, prompting anti-US sentiments across the country. The tribal areas' residents also criticized the central government for not to coming up with a tangible move to end such indiscriminate attacks on residential areas. However, the situation has weakened the status of the government in Islamabad in the eyes of the people, who are already gripped with the sufferings of the floods, and in this way Islamabad saw no recourse but to show the smallest tough stand against the US.
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