Saturday, April 13, 2013

Musharraf admits giving nod for U.S. drone strikes

ISLAMABAD, April 13, 2013

Former military dictator Pervez Musharraf on Thursday admitted that he had secretly granted permission to the U.S. on a "few occasions" to carry out drone strikes inside Pakistan. Though the admission came with various caveats, it flies in the face of the country's official position that no approval has ever been given to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to operate drones.According to Gen. (retd.) Musharraf, permission was granted "only on very few occasions where target was absolutely isolated and had no chance of collateral damage". He put the number of such instances at "maybe two or three times only". Further, he said, these strikes were discussed within the military and intelligence establishment and cleared only "if there was no time for our own SOTF [Special Operations Task Force] and military to act".

This is the first time any Pakistani leader — serving and former — has admitted to allowing drone strikes , billed by Pakistan as one of the biggest irritants in relations with the U.S. Earlier this week, McClatchy Newspapers reported from Washington that "Pakistan's premier intelligence agency [Inter Services Intelligence] secretly worked for years with the CIA on [drone] strikes that killed Pakistani insurgent leaders and scores of suspected lower-level fighters".

Referring to classified U.S. intelligence reports in its possession, McClatchy Newspapers said the partnership was so extensive during the Bush administration that ISI selected its own targets for drone strikes.

"Until mid-2008, the CIA had to obtain advanced approval before each attack, and under both administrations, the Pakistanis received briefings and videos of the strikes."

Then on, Washington stopped seeking ISI approval for drone strikes and began unilaterally hitting Afghan insurgents, particularly the Haqqani network. "The main reason for ending the ISI's ability to veto targets…was that after several years of arguing, U.S. military and intelligence officials finally persuaded the White House that ISI officers were protecting the Haqqani network to… bring a pro-Pakistan government to power in Kabul."
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