US to use Afghan as base of drone attacks in Pak

US is shifting its terror-killer drones from Pakistan to Afghanistan.

Last Updated: Apr 30, 2011, 16:35 PM IST

Washington: US is shifting its terror-killer drones from Pakistan to Afghanistan after Islamabad asked it
to shut down UAV bases on its territory, but America has vowed to continue hitting militants based in Pakistan`s tribal areas.

Pakistan has asked CIA to remove its personnel from the
Shamsi airbase, about 350 kms southwest of Baluchistan`s
capital Quetta, where some of the drones are based, `New York
Times` reported quoting senior American officials.

"The withdrawal has not occurred but is expected soon,"
the official said adding that the drone attacks would then be
flown out of Afghanistan where some of them are already based.

But even after shifting, the Predators and Reapers, top
US military commander, Admiral Mike Mullen, in a private
meeting in Islamabad last week told Pakistan`s powerful army
chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani that CIA would not reduce the
drone strikes until Pakistan launched a military operation
against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan.

As tensions mount between the two nations, `The Times`
said the appointment of General David H Petraeus as America`s
top spy chief could further inflame relations as Pakistan
military does not regard him as a "friend".

The usually secretive Kayani, has made little secret of
his distaste for Petraeus, calling him a political general.

Petraeus has privately expressed outrage at what American
officials say is the Pakistani main spy agency`s most blatant
support yet for fighters based in Pakistan who are carrying
out attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.

Repairing the frayed ties between the CIA and Pakistan`s
military-run agency, ISI, will be difficult, American
officials say.

"In its current form, the relationship is almost
unworkable," said Dennis C Blair, a former American director
of national intelligence. "There has to be a major
restructuring. The ISI jams the CIA all it wants and pays no
penalties."

"The relationship between the two countries is very tense
right now," said Representative William M Thornberry of
Texas, a senior Republican on the House Armed Services
Committee, who visited Pakistan last week.

"And the Pakistan government fuels the anti-American
public opinion to increase pressure on us."

Newly disclosed documents obtained by WikiLeaks have also
stoked tensions. One of them, from the prison at Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba, lists the ISI along with numerous militant groups
as allies of al Qaeda and the Taliban, an indication of how
deep American suspicions run when it comes to Pakistani
intelligence.

The drone campaign, which the CIA has run against
militants in Pakistan`s tribal areas since 2004, will now
become the preserve of General Petraeus, and it has moved to
center stage, at least for the Pakistanis.

A former Pakistani general who speaks to Kayani said he
believed that the Pakistan army`s leader had concluded that
the drone campaign should end because it hurt the army`s
reputation among the Pakistani public. Those being killed by
the drones are of mid-level or even lesser importance, the
general said.

The Americans say the drones are more important than
ever as a tool to stanch the flow of Taliban foot soldiers
coming across the border to fight American and NATO forces.

That the Pakistan army still maintains links with
militants was on full display last week in Wana, the main town
of South Waziristan, according to a local resident.

There, militants loyal to Maulvi Nazir, a Taliban
leader who maintains a peace agreement with the Pakistani
military and whose forces often cross into Afghanistan, showed
high morale and were moving around freely in front of the
Pakistani Army, the resident said. "It looked," he said, "as
though the army was giving them a free hand."

PTI