Home South Asia Afghanistan A new arrangement between the US and Pakistan on drone operations?

A new arrangement between the US and Pakistan on drone operations?

drone operations
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News Analysis |

Three drone strikes have reportedly been carried out in the Paktia province of Afghanistan on Tuesday, which according to reports have resulted in 5 casualties. The suspected strikes have come a day after a US drone strike hit a compound of the Haqqani Network in the Kurram Agency of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas(FATA). The strike has reportedly resulted in 26 casualties. Some unverified reports suggest that were killed belonged to the anti-Pakistan outfits in Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Jamaat ul-Ahrar(JUA), the elements against whom Pakistan has sought stern action.

The veracity of Monday’s strike taking place in Kurram Agency has been challenged by the local political administration which claims that the strikes hit miscreants in the Shpola area of Afghanistan’s Paktia province. However, sources confirmed that a suspected militant, Abu Bakar was killed.

The suspected attack took place in the same area where the Pakistan Army carried out a successful Intelligence Based Operation(IBO) which rescued the Coleman-Boyle family. Reportedly, drones hovered over the Agency to gather actionable intelligence ahead of the operation. DG ISPR, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor while giving out details of the operation on Saturday acknowledged US’ intelligence contribution in the monumental IBO, which has led to a rare pleasant epoch in the ties between the US and Pakistan.

Islamabad had blamed the US for scuttling the QCG by eliminating Mullah Mansoor in a drone strike last year.

However, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif took exceptions to the timings of the strike. In a television interview on Monday, He said that the US must avoid carrying out strikes at a time when efforts are being to kickstart a peace process.Asif said:”At a time when a [peace] process is restarting, I think that the US should refrain from attacking anywhere — be it Pakistan or Afghanistan.” Asif added that any attack inside Pakistan is an infringement of its sovereignty. He said:”In Pakistan, an attack within our geographical limits is a clear violation, we definitely take offense. We [will] definitely take it up with the US that such violations are counterproductive.”

Read more: Islamabad draws red lines: No political role for India in Afghanistan!

The strikes do not come as a surprise to keen watchers and pundits of the region. Even before the announcement of the new South Asia policy, an increase in the scope and scale of drone operations was on the cards.

The strike took place at a time when the 4-member Quadrilateral Coordination Group(QCG) met in Oman in a bid to figure out a way to initiate a direct dialogue between the National Unity Government in Afghanistan the Afghan Taliban.Islamabad had blamed the US for scuttling the QCG by eliminating Mullah Mansoor in a drone strike last year.

Read more:Will QCG be effective in bringing the Afghan Taliban to talking…

Drones will hurl missiles 

The strikes do not come as a surprise to keen watchers and pundits of the region. Even before the announcement of the new South Asia policy, an increase in the scope and scale of drone operations was on the cards.This is the second strike after the promulgation of the new policy; the strike in Kurram Agency last month killed three suspected militants.

The Pakistani military who had earlier taken exceptions to drone strikes has not issued a statement till now. Previously, COAS Gen Bajwa had been quoted as saying by the ISPR:”Drone strikes are “counterproductive and against [the] spirit of ongoing cooperation and intelligence sharing being diligently undertaken by Pakistan.” He had asserted that “Pakistan Army is capable of taking effective measure if actionable intelligence is shared.”

Pundits are optimistic that better ties at the military level can lead to closer cooperation between the two countries. However, experts believe that events at the tactical level can only translate into improvements at higher levels only through continuous and meaningful engagements.

Despite recent offers of joint military operations against the Haqqani Network, such outrageous jointness is untenable as analysts believe that it would be marred by mistrust and issues of sovereignty. The rescue of the Coleman-Boyle family amplified the importance of cooperation between the two countries.Analysts are positive that slowly both countries are coming to grips with each other’s concerns.

Read more: QCG meeting ends without a breakthrough: What lies ahead in the…

A possibility of new arrangements on drone strikes cannot be ruled out; it is believed that if US drones target anti-Pakistan militants in Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Jamat ul Ahrar in Afghanistan, Pakistan may soften its stance on the drone program. Pundits are optimistic that better ties at the military level can lead to closer cooperation between the two countries. However, experts believe that events at the tactical level can only translate into improvements at higher levels  through continuous and meaningful engagements.


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