`CIA using military drones to strike terror targets in Pak`

CIA is using armed drones provided by the US military to hit terrorist targets across Pakistan.

Updated: Oct 03, 2010, 11:57 AM IST

Washington: In a bid to deal "decisive blows"
to the Taliban, the CIA is using an expanded arsenal of armed
drones and other equipment provided by the US military to hit
terrorist targets across Pakistan that are beyond the reach of
the American forces based in Afghanistan.

Given that the terror outfits have established some of
their bases in other parts of the country as well -- not only
along the traditional Af-Pak border, CIA is using such
sophisticated equipment to reach out to terrorist targets that
are beyond the striking range of the American forces based in
Afghanistan, a media report said here today.

"The merging of covert CIA operations and military
firepower is part of a high-stakes attempt by the Obama
administration to deal decisive blows to Taliban insurgents
who have regained control of swaths of territory in
Afghanistan but stage most of their operations from
sanctuaries across that country`s eastern border," `The
Washington Post` said.

"The move represents a significant evolution of an
already controversial targeted killing programme run by the
CIA," it said.

The agency`s drone programme began as a secret, sporadic
effort to kill members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, but
is now delivering what amounts to a cross-border bombing
campaign in coordination with conventional military operations
a few miles away, the daily said.

The Post said the US military has provided Predator and
Reaper drones, as well as other weaponry, to the CIA in an
effort to give the agency more capacity to carry out lethal
strikes in Pakistan.

"Increasing the operational tempo against terrorists in
Pakistan has been in the works since last year," a US official
was quoted as saying.

"The CIA sought more resources to go after terrorists in
Pakistan, which the White House strongly supported," the
official said.

According to the daily, the official said Defence
Secretary Robert Gates and CIA Director Leon E Panetta "worked
closely together to expand the effort. The foundation for the
latest intensification of strikes was laid then, and the
results speak for themselves."

Of late, the CIA has increased its drone strikes inside
Pakistan.

In September, according to the New American Foundation,
the agency carried out as many as 22 drone strikes, double the
average number per month.

All but three of the September strikes have been aimed at
insurgent nodes in North Waziristan, part of Pakistan`s
largely ungoverned tribal territories that are a stronghold of
the Haqqani group, the daily said.

These drone attacks have reportedly killed dozens of
insurgents and an unknown number of civilians in a region that
sits almost directly across from a cluster of US military and
secret CIA forward operating bases that have been used by the
agency to build a network of informants that stretches into
Pakistan, said the newspaper.

"Our intelligence has gotten a lot better," the US
official was quoted as saying. "And you want to have the
capabilities to match the quality of the intelligence coming,"
the official said.

PTI