Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Officials: White House offers to curtail drones in Pakistan

WASHINGTON — In a bid to save the CIA's drone campaign against al-Qaida in Pakistan, U.S. officials offered key concessions to Pakistan's spy chief that included advance notice and limits on the types of targets, the Associated Press reported, citing unnamed U.S. intelligence officials. But the offers were flatly rejected, leaving U.S.-Pakistani relations strained as President Barack Obama prepares to meet today 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 U.S. tools against al-Qaida.

The CIA chief also offered to apply new limits on the types of targets hit. 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 behavior as clearly indicative of militant activity.

Pasha said then what Pakistani officials and its parliament have repeated in recent days: that Pakistan will no longer brook independent U.S. action on its territory by CIA drones, the Associated Press reported, citing unnamed Pakistani officials.

The breakdown in U.S.-Pakistani relations follows a series of incidents throughout 2011 that have marred trust — from a CIA security officer who shot dead two alleged Pakistani assailants, to the U.S. Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, to the border incident where U.S. forces returned fire they believed came from a Pakistani border post, killing 24 Pakistani troops. The diplomatic fallout has led to the ejection of U.S. military trainers who had worked closely with Pakistani counter-insurgent forces; has slowed CIA drone strikes; and has almost halted the once-common joint raids and investigations by Pakistan's intelligence service together with the CIA and FBI.

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