Washington: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is reportedly using new, smaller missiles and advanced surveillance techniques to minimise civilian casualties in its targeted killings of suspected insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
According to current and former officials in the United States and Pakistan, the technological improvements have resulted in more accurate operations, as the organisation seeks to minimise any political backlash from Pakistan and international human rights groups.
The officials believe that the new measures are being introduced to keep a strong alliance with the Pakistan Government, which has tolerated the air strikes killing hundreds of suspected insurgents since early 2009.
They also point to the relative absence of complaints from local and regional leaders, as evidence of the success of CIA’s efforts.
The CIA declines to publicly discuss its operations in Pakistan, but the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the drone campaign is both classified and controversial, The Washington Post reports.
According to CIA statistics, just over 20 civilians were killed in missile strikes since January 2009, in a 15-month period that witnessed over 70 drone attacks that killed 400 suspected terrorists and insurgents.
However, the New America Foundation puts the civilian death toll at 181 and reports a far higher number of alleged terrorists and insurgents killed - 690.