The drones must go on: US won’t stop CIA strikes in Pakistan

Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)
Washington "has no intentions" to end CIA drone strikes against militant targets in Pakistan, American media report citing unnamed US officials. The news comes hours after a Pakistani resolution called on the US to end its attacks.

­Officials noted that they would work in the near future to try and mend ties with Pakistan, but if suspected terrorist targets are detected by the CIA drone’s hellfire missiles lasers, they will shoot. There have been no official comments from the White House so far, and the officials providing the news commented only anonymously.

This comes right after Pakistan’s parliament, following more than two weeks of deliberation, unanimously approved a four-page resolution on Thursday with the support of opposition parties.

The resolution calls on the US to end CIA drone attacks immediately, and demands that the Obama administration apologize for the November airstrikes that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead. There have been reports of the White House considering to make an official apology over the Salala checkpost attack.

This is not the first official Pakistani demand that Washington end the strikes – demands the White House has a habit of ignoring. That fact cast doubts that the US is likely to change its policy now, especially as Washington believes the strikes are key to defeating al-Qaeda.

As for the issue of NATO supply routes, which lay through Pakistan, the resolution demands that no arms and ammunition be transported through the country. Pakistan also wants more payments from NATO and the US for the right to ship supplies across its soil.

If these conditions are met by the US, Afghanistan may get the food and fuel supplies it so badly needs since November, when delivery was suspended after the air strike that killed the Pakistani soldiers.

About 30 per cent of the supplies used by NATO and US troops in Afghanistan are transported through Pakistan. For the US, the route through Pakistan allows significant savings on shipments. The Pentagon says it costs about $17,000 per container to go through the "north" – that being through Central Asia – compared with about $7,000 per container to go through Pakistan.

Among other measures, the resolution also prohibits covert operations inside Pakistan, and says that no private security contractors or intelligence operatives are to be allowed into the country.

It also calls for  and end to unauthorized American military ingress onto Pakistani soil, even for “hot pursuit.”

The resolution is essentially nonbinding, but Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that his government will ensure that its conditions are fully implemented.

“The resolution will enrich your [parliament members] respect and dignity; I assure you that we will get these enforced in letter and spirit,” Gilani said. “We are a responsible nation,” he said. “We know our obligations as well as the importance of the United States.”

­Washington’s response: treating the resolution with ‘respect’

The US State Department met the Pakistani parliament's decision with respect.

"We respect the seriousness with which parliament's review of US-Pakistan relations has been conducted," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "We seek a relationship with Pakistan that is enduring, strategic, and more clearly defined. We look forward to discussing these policy recommendations with the Government of Pakistan and continuing to engage with it on our shared interests."

Washington is also interested in discussions, as it needs Islamabad's cooperation to negotiate an end to the Afghan war, many of the insurgent leaders of which are based in Pakistan.

The resolution establishes a framework for talks between senior American and Pakistani officials in the coming weeks.