US shares predator drone data with Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan-  The US military shared some surveillance information collected by American Predator drone aircrafts flying along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan according to military officials. There has been a growing dispute between Pakistan and the US as to how to use the drones and the data derived from the flights over the area between the Afghan and Pakistan border. The real time video feeds and communication intercepts obtained by the remotely controlled aircraft and other data was requested by Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari on his recent visit to the United States with President Obama last week.

In fact, President Zardari had asked the Obama administration that Pakistan be given its own armed Predator drones to attack Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the country’s tribal areas. Obama administration officials are against sharing the drone technology with the Pakistani military but are open to sharing data gained from the remote controlled aircraft. Members of the US military however who are responsible for operating the drones have objected to the joint operations with the Pakistani military. Several years ago intelligence was shared by the American military regarding impending drone attacks with Pakistan’s military, but stopped doing so after the information was leaked to the militants.

Many people inside Pakistan and even some US intelligence experts are concerned that the increased use of the drone attacks inside Pakistan are a recruiting boon for the militants as the unintended civilian casualties have prompted widespread anger at the United States. The drone attacks has also caused many militants to leave the barely populated areas of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) near the Afghan border and instead move deeper into Pakistan’s heavily populated cities like Lahore and Karachi where the drones are not allowed to operate. The “Talibanization” of parts of Karachi is a huge concern to Pakistan’s government as it is a city of nearly 13 million people and the financial capital of the country. Some US officials however believe that it is easier to track down militants who leave the remote border areas and settle in the cities with help from Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI). They pointed out that several senior Al Qaeda operatives in US custody were found in urban Pakistani areas.

Pakistani officials have wanted the drone aircraft technology to use against the Taliban themselves. Zardari stated that if Pakistani army was operating the drones and firing missiles that killed the Taliban inside Pakistan, then there would not be as big a backlash as there is by Pakistanis when it is American operated drones by American forces that are killing militants and civilians inside Pakistan. To the government of Pakistan operating the drones would make a more plausible case to the public that Pakistani missiles, not American ones were used to kill militants inside the country’s border. The US however is adamantly opposed to sharing the sensitive information with the Pakistani military on how the drone technology works stating that even America’s closest allies like Brittan and Australia or even NATO member countries have not been given the highly sought after information regarding the deadly drone aircraft. And sharing this technology with Pakistan’s military which is rife with division and loyalties amongst many in its ranks for the Taliban is out of the question according to a spokesman for the Pentagon who asked to be anonymous. So for the time being, the data gleaned from these aircrafts and other sources of information is all the US is willing to share with the Pakistani government. Depending on how that data is treated by the Pakistani military will determine continued cooperation between the US and Pakistan as trust needs to be earned by both sides in this war on terror.

Reported for by Manzer Munir


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