Pakistan dilemma: U.S. in no mood to stop Waziristan drone strikes
There is no let up in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal regions and in a latest attack early Thursday, an American spy aircraft fired missiles into North Waziristan and killed at least four people, a tribal elder in the region said.
Malik Mumtaz told The News Pakistan from Miranshah, headquarters of North Waziristan, that two missiles struck a house near Mir Ali, a main town in the region in the free-dawn strike.
“The U.S. drones were flying before and even after the attack,” he said, adding that the U.S. unmanned aircraft have increased flights in North Waziristan in recent days after a lull of weeks.
North Waziristan, which the U.S. considers as a major launching pad for cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, has been the focus of the U.S. strikes in recent months but two drone attacks were carried out in the neighbouring South Waziristan in a week.
There was no information about the identity of the slain men in the Thursday’s attack. The U.S. claims that drones only target the militants, the claim routinely disputed by tribesmen and some Pakistan and international rights groups.
The U.S. has again stepped up drone strikes in Waziristan and the Thursday’s attack was the third in twn days.
On Dec. 1, U.S. drones launched a strike in South Waziristan killing at least four people including an al-Qaeda leader Abdul Rehman Azman, a Yemeni national. He was considered as close aides of Osama bin Laden. On November 29, a U.S. missile strike on a house killed three people in South Waziristan.
Pakistan publicly opposes the CIA-controlled drones operation in its tribal regions, however, the U.S. has ruled out any change in its policy, claiming that Islamabad is reluctant to go after the militants in North Waziristan.
The Thursday’s strike occurred a couple of days after top U.S. and Pakistani defence officials concluded two days of talks in Rawalpindi, who also discussed ‘challenges along the Pak-Afghan border region’, a clear reference to the activities of the militants in the border areas.
Pakistan and the U.S. are in a fix over the drone controversy as both have divergent views. Washington considers this highly secret mission as an effective tool in its so-called war on terror to eliminate its staunch enemies. But Islamabad insists the operation is counterproductive, increases militancy, anti-US sentiments and creates problems for the government.
A UK-based research panel says the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals.
The findings published in February just days after President Obama claimed that the drone campaign in Pakistan was a ‘targeted, focused effort’ that ‘has not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.’
Islamabad has also been asking the U.S. to give it the drone technology but this request has not yet been entertained.
Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, says that Pakistan and the U.S. are engaged in talks on drone strikes to find out a solution to the issue, which Islamabad considers as counterproductive in the so-called anti-terror war. Other Pakistani leaders have also made such assertions but there are no signs of any halt to the highly controversial drone campaign.
Besides civilian casualties, the U.S. drones have led to psychological problems among the children in Waziristan region as the residents almost daily see American spy aircraft flying over their homes.
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