US Drone Attacks by Govt. Approval

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had not resisted US drone attacks in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas, with a policy to publicly oppose and secretly support the assaults.

US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks claim that Pakistan’s political leadership had been in an agreement with the US on drone attacks. The leaked cables quote former US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W Patterson as saying that the country’s political leadership had approved the strikes in the Tribal Areas.

Patterson’s cable states, “(Rehman) Malik suggested we (the US) hold off alleged Predator attacks until after the Bajaur operation. The PM (Gilani) brushed aside Malik’s remarks and said, I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”

The US cables also revealed that small teams of US Special Forces were secretly embedded with Pakistan’s military in the tribal regions, helping to hunt down the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters and coordinate drone strikes in the area.

The cables said that in October 2009, the Pakistani military covertly allowed a handful of the US special operation soldiers to deploy with Pakistani troops in North and South Waziristan. Although they were forbidden to conduct combat missions, they were there to provide “intelligence, surveillance and recon support”, coordinating drone strikes and helping the military hunt down militants.

It said, “Pakistan’s Army and ISI are covertly sponsoring four militant groups, including LeT, and will not abandon them for any amount of US money,” the American envoy to Islamabad, Anne W Patterson wrote in the review of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy in September 2009.

According to a review written by the US envoy, Pakistan had received more than $16 billion in American aid since 2001, but “there is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance … as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these groups”. The cables added that US diplomats and spies believed Pakistan Army and the ISI continued to quietly back the Afghan Taliban, its allied Haqqani and Hekmatyar networks on the western Afghan frontier, and LeT on the eastern border with India.

“Some ISI officials continue to maintain ties with a wide array of extremist organizations, in particular the Taliban, LeT and other extremist organizations,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009. “Resolving the 63-year-old Kashmir conflict would dramatically improve the situation,” Patterson added.

“We need to reassess Indian involvement in Afghanistan and our own policies towards India, including the growing military relationship through sizeable conventional arms sales, as all of this feeds Pakistani establishment paranoia and pushes them closer to both Afghan and Kashmir-focused terrorist groups while reinforcing doubts about US intentions,” she said.

The US diplomatic cables also revealed that millions of dollars in American military aid to Pakistan earmarked for fighting militants was not used for the desired purpose, but diverted to the government’s coffers. According to The Guardian, Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani said the money, including $26 million for barbed wire and $70 million to defend against non-existent Taliban warplanes, had been diverted into the Islamabad government’s coffers.

“Pakistan’s military chief told the US ambassador in March 2009 that he’d be prepared to force out President Asif Ali Zardari to safeguard political stability,” according to a diplomatic cable. Kayani said he would stop short of a coup and keep the government led by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in place. According to the cable, he made the comment during a fourth meeting with the ambassador in a week.

He named Asfandyar Wali Khan, leader of the Awami National League Party, a possible replacement for Zardari, the cables said. Kayani was quoted as saying that he might support Khan as the new president – not Zardari’s arch-enemy Nawaz Sharif.

In another cable, US Vice President Joe Biden recounted to Britain’s then prime minister Gordon Brown a conversation with Zardari last year in which the Pakistani president told the US vice president that Kayani and the ISI “will take me out”.

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