Timing of US drone strike questioned

The US envoy to Pak feared the timing of the attack would further damage ties with Islamabad.

Updated: Aug 03, 2011, 00:27 AM IST

Islamabad: The American ambassador to
Islamabad phoned Washington with an urgent plea: Stop an
imminent CIA drone strike against militants on the Pakistani
side of the Afghan border.

He feared the timing of the attack would further damage
ties with Islamabad, coming only a day after the government
grudgingly freed a CIA contractor held for weeks for killing
two Pakistanis.

Ambassador Cameron Munter`s rare request - disclosed by several US officials - was forwarded to the head of the CIA, who dismissed it.

US officials said Leon Panetta`s decision was driven by
anger at Pakistan for imprisoning Raymond Davis for so long
and a belief that the militants being targeted were too
important to pass up.

The deadly March 17 attack helped send the US-Pakistan
relationship into a tailspin from which it has not recovered.

The timing of the strike - and others that followed - outraged
Pakistani officials, complicating US efforts to win Pakistani
cooperation on the Afghan war and retain support for the drone
program.

Newly revealed details of the drone raids were provided
by US and Pakistani officials who spoke on condition of
anonymity because of the sensitivity of the program.

Among them were attacks that followed an April visit by
Pakistan`s spy chief to Washington as well as trips here by
Sen. John Kerry and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
after the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a
Pakistani military town in May.

PTI