CIA resumes drone strikes in Pakistan after six-month hiatus

Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal AreasBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The United States Central Intelligence Agency appears to have resumed its targeted assassinations using unmanned aerial drones in Pakistan, following a nearly six-moth hiatus. The Agency launched its lethal drone program in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2004, and intensified it in 2008 under the supervision of US President George Bush, who then passed it on to his successor, Barack Obama. Nearly 400 strikes on Pakistani soil have been attributed to the CIA in the past decade, which have killed in excess of 3,000 militants and civilians by some estimates. But, in an unprecedented move, Washington completely seized carrying out airstrikes on Pakistani soil after December 25 of last year. That changed on Wednesday, June 11, when several powerful missiles landed outside a house located a few miles outside of Miramshah, in Pakistan’s North Wazieristan Province. The area is an operational stronghold of Pakistan’s most powerful armed militant group, the Pakistani Talban, and its close affiliate, the Haqqani Network. The air strikes took out a number of vehicles that were allegedly filled with explosives and killed at least 16 people, including alleged Taliban and Haqqani commanders, as well as, reportedly, members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Washington said that those targeted were on their way to conduct cross-border raids in Afghanistan when they were killed. As it always does in these instances, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the strikes as violations of the country’s sovereignty. But reports in the Pakistani media claimed that Washington had sought and received Islamabad’s approval prior to launching last week’s attacks. What prompted the change in policy? According to one local observer, the CIA had agreed to stop its aerial attacks after it was asked to do so by the government of Pakistan, which has been engaged in peace talks with the Taliban for several months. But these talks collapsed following the June 6 suicide attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport by the Taliban and the IMU, which killed 36 people, including all 10 attackers. Read more of this post

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CIA scores Washington Post charm offensive

CIA HQ

CIA HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
For an agency whose very future is routinely questioned by former employees, the CIA has been getting plenty of positive press in the pages of The Washington Post lately. On Monday, The Post’s Jeff Stein cited “a former top CIA official” who claimed that the Agency’s unmanned drone assassination program in the Afghan-Pakistan border has the Taliban in disarray, “thinking that we can track them anywhere”. The former official also said that the speed of the CIA and “its Pentagon partners” (presumably NSA) in intercepting targeted communications makes the process of assassinating Taliban leaders “like mowing a lawn”. Does this sound too good to be true? How about an article published on the same day, also in The Washington Post, which claims that the CIA’s Predator drone assassination program has “kept the number of civilian deaths extremely low”? Read more of this post

Abduction of former Pakistani ISI officials raises questions

Colonel Imam

Colonel Imam

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Questions are being raised about the reported abduction of two well-known veterans of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, who appear to have been kidnapped by an unknown group in Pakistan’s remote tribal regions. The two are Khalid Khawaja and Sultan Amir Tarar, a.k.a. Colonel Imam. Khawaja, a retired ISI officer, was a critical mediator between the CIA and Osama bin Laden in the 1980s, during the al-Qaeda’s war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Colonel Imam, also a former intelligence officer and a diplomat, was the ISI handler of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in the 1980s and early 1990s. Both Khawaja and Imam are considered senior members of the ISI’s ‘old guard’, who have strong ideological sympathies for both al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and frequently voice support for the latter. Read more of this post

Obama’s Afghan plan includes expanding CIA ops in Pakistan

Predator drone

Predator drone

By I. ALLEN & J. FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Obama Administration’s plan to increase US military presence in Afghanistan includes expanding the CIA’s work in neighboring Pakistan, a country with which the US is officially not at war. An article published yesterday in The New York Times notes that the President has authorized the CIA to expand its Predator drone assassination program to include strikes in places like Baluchistan, which are outside Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal areas and far from the Afghan-Pakistani border. This development represents a major policy victory for the hawkish wing in the Pentagon’s senior leadership, which has been pressing Obama’s advisors to expand CIA assassination operations deeper into Pakistan since November of 2008. It also further reveals the Obama Administration’s policy preference toward undercover operations with a strong deniability proponent. Read more of this post

Analysis: CIA now operates on its own inside Pakistan

Border region

Border region

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Pakistani newspaper The Daily Times has published what is probably the most significant report from Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in recent months. The paper quotes senior Pakistani government officials in arguing that intelligence cooperation and coordination between Washington and Islamabad is now “at its lowest level”. One senior intelligence source describes the present situation as the latest stage in a gradual process of deterioration in relations between the two countries, beginning in 2001-2003, when “relations were good” and intelligence sharing was considerable in scale. As intelNews readers have known since November 16, 2008, these sharing arrangements included CIA-orchestrated airstrikes on Pakistani soil by unmanned drones, which the Pakistani leadership then secretly approved. However, The Daily Times reports that eventually Washington began notifying Islamabad just “minutes before carrying out strikes”. In recent weeks “[t]he level of cooperation has gone so low that the US now even does not intimate Pakistan after a drone strike” (emphasis added,) according to one senior Pakistani security official. Read more of this post