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article imagePakistan and U.S. unable to reach deal on drone attacks

By Ken Hanly     Jul 14, 2012 in Politics
Islamabad - The Pakistani parliament several times passed motions demanding that U.S. drone attacks cease. The strikes continue. However, Pakistan and the U.S. are trying to reach a deal on the attacks. So far little progress seems to have been made.
Cessation of drone strikes was made a condition of reopening NATO transit routes through Pakistan to Afghanistan. However after Hillary Clinton apologized for a border incident in which 24 Pakistani troops were killed, Pakistan reopened the routes. Drone attacks did not cease.
Since the attacks continued after the NATO routes were reopened many thought that perhaps Pakistan had tacitly agreed to the attacks. Sherry Rehman the Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. has vehemently denied this and reaffirmed Pakistan's opposition to drone attacks as a violation of its sovereignty. "It (Pakistan) hasn't okayed any American drone strikes on its territory in exchange for Washington's apology over the Salala attacks," Rehman condemned unilateral drone strikes. This suggests that should Pakistan and the U.S. agree on managing the strikes Pakistan might not object.
Negotiations between the U.S. and Pakistan on a compromise deal on drones have been ongoing. However a senior official said::. “Cessation of drones is still a high priority for us in the dialogue with the US, but I’m afraid we are nowhere near a deal on the issue,” “But we’ll keep talking to them about it,”
The defense committee of the Pakistani cabinet said after a meeting on July 3 that Pakistan “will continue to engage the US on counter-terrorism co-operation and counter-terrorism tools that are in line with international law and practice” There have been recent meetings between Pakistani foreign minister Hina Khar and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well.
Just days before the July 3rd deal to reopen transit routes Pakistan suggested that there were alternatives to using drone strikes in the tribal areas although officials did not disclose exactly what they were. Foreign Office spokesperson Mozzam Khan said:“Pakistan’s position on drone attacks is very clear, and very clearly stated. This is an issue and both countries want to resolve it in a mutually acceptable manner,” The drone attacks are quite unpopular in Pakistan over 90 per cent oppose them. In the past the government has criticized the attacks in public while tacitly agreeing to them behind the scenes. Senior military officials concede privately that the attacks have tactical advantages.
Since the U.S. is adamant that the attacks continue a deal seems unlikely. However it is possible that if Pakistan is given more control over targeting and attacks are launched only with Pakistani agreement a deal could be reached. However the U.S. is not likely to cede that much power to Pakistan.
Pakistani intelligence and government officials no doubt are happy enough when U.S. drones kill people such as Batullah Mehsud leader of the Pakistani Talliban since they mount attacks in Pakistan. However when the drones target leaders such s Jalaluddin Haqqani who is alleged to have connections with Pakistani intelligence this angers them.
Giving Pakistan more say in the targeting process and other aspects of the drone attacks might help soothe Pakistani pride and counter the idea that Pakistan is simply a compliant client state of the US. However, the U.S. worries that if Pakistan were involved leaks would occur and the targets would escape before an attack.
The resolution of the conflict between Pakistan and the U.S. concerning drones could vastly improve relations between the two countries. However given U.S. insistence that attacks continue and only on U.S. terms the issue will probably remain unresolved.
More about Pakistan, US Pakistan relations, drone attacks in Pakistan
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