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Is Pakistan Looking The Other Way On U.S. Drone Strikes?

The MQ-1 Predator drone.
The MQ-1 Predator drone.
Authorities in Pakistan claim two U.S. missile strikes have killed dozens of suspected militants in the Khyber tribal agency, close to the Afghan-Pakistani border.

The nearly simultaneous attacks targeted militants' hideout in the mountanous Tirrah region of the tribal district. Authorities say the missiles were fired from U.S. predator drones, killing seven militants in the first strike. A second attack reprotedly killed three more militants.

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said there had been serious disagreements between Pakistan and the United States regarding drone attacks.

Responding to a question about drone attacks in Khyber Agency, Basit said, "So far, as the term of 'safe haven' is concerned, I don't agree with that. Terrorism is an international issue and it should be dealt with internationally. This is not the responsibility of single country, all the countries should work together to curb the menace of terrorism.

"Yes, if there are shortcomings or gaps on the part of Pakistan, at the same time [the] international community also lacks the capacity to combat terrorism effectively. Pakistan sacrificed a lot and the sacrifices continue. The operation in Waziristan is a serious issue and we need the confidence of our people before launching it."

U.S. drone attacks are very controversial in Pakistan -- where, ofiicially, the government considers them an infringement of Pakistan's sovereignty. Some analysts believe, however, that Pakistan is exploiting the issue for its own strategic interests.

Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yousafzai believes Pakistan provides ground intelligence to the U.S. military about the whereabouts of militants and then the U.S. drones target them.

"I suspect Pakistan provides assistance for these attacks," Yousafzai told me. "It is possible for Pakistan to identify targets who are the enemies of the country. As reports show, there is a drone attack in Tirrha that killed Taliban from Swat and Lashkar-e Islam -- they are the Taliban who are fighting against Pakistan rather than the U.S. They are a lesser danger for the U.S., but a bigger danger for Pakistan.

"It is possible that in such attacks Pakistani intellgence directly or indirectly supports the United States."

-- Gul Ayaz