Human intelligence aid drone attacks in Pakistan

Security officials are surprised by CIA`s ability to take out moving targets.

Last Updated: Dec 30, 2010, 14:29 PM IST

Islamabad: US drones are now having enhanced ability to hit targets in Pakistan`s mountainous North Waziristan tribal region, thanks to the effectiveness of "real-time (human) intelligence", security officials have said.

The turnaround in information gathering for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in North Waziristan, once considered an intelligence black hole, could not have come about without the explicit consent of Pakistan`s security apparatus, officials told the Dawn on Thursday.

Official records show that since January 01 this year there have been 112 air strikes by the drones in the tribal regions, of them 98 were carried out in North Waziristan.

As many as 39 precision strikes targeting al Qaeda and its Pakistani affiliates in North Waziristan took place over the past three months, an official said, adding the strikes killed 605 people. The dead comprised 507 Pakistanis, majority of them militants, and 98 foreigners.

Security officials have been taken by surprise by CIA`s increasing ability to take out moving targets.

Predator drones on Monday fired missiles at two vehicles in North Waziristan, killing 18 people.

"One of the vehicles was loaded with explosives to the hilt and had it been targeted in a compound the devastation would have been huge," the official was quoted as saying.

"So a moving target is ideal in the sense that it minimises chances of collateral damage."

Officials said there has been mounting evidence of the CIA tracking moving targets in Pakistan`s tribal regions from inside Afghanistan and then attacking them.

"The evidence we have is circumstantial but that the CIA is able to hit mobile target demonstrates enhanced humint (human intelligence) on the ground," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

A source said: "The Americans seem to have made considerable ingress in our tribal regions and I doubt this could have happened without our knowledge and approval."

The security official pointed out that "real-time (human) intelligence" in North Waziristan had helped the CIA to hit moving targets.

"They have improved their intelligence collection to deliver punishment in real time," said another official while referring to the drone attacks in the tribal areas.

"Moving targets tend to vanish quickly. So have to have human intelligence on the ground to identify and engage the target in real time in a matter of minutes.”

"This requires credible intelligence and communication system to direct the strike and this means that CIA`s human intelligence has improved considerably," the official said.

Officials told the daily that the escalation in drone strikes and CIA`s increasing ability to take out moving targets have put more stress on the militants and forced them to restrict their movement.

"Their freedom of movement has been curtailed to a great extent. This has caused demoralisation," an official said, adding: "There is no discrimination while taking out targets, be they Pakistani Taliban or al Qaeda and their foreign affiliates."

Human intelligence has come at a heavy price with several executions of local and Afghan tribesmen.

Official records state that since January last 26 people were killed on suspicion of working for the CIA to identify potential targets.

IANS