Friday, 22 April 2011

USA join hands with pakistan!!!!!





Persistent mega-whining from Islamabad finally yielded results on Thursday in the form of US agreeing to supply Pakistan with non-lethal mini-drones. But the Obama administration also signaled that it would not scale back from its Predator bombing campaign in Pakistan with yet another punitive strike on militant hideouts on Friday that reportedly killed 25 people.


The attack took place even as Pakistan's foreign secretary Salman Bashir was meeting State Department interlocutors, including a drop-in by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during his engagement with Under-Secretary of State Marc Grossman. Just hours before the meeting, a US military official in Islamabad revealed that Washington would provide Pakistan with 85 small "Raven" drone aircraft in a short-term answer to address long-standing Pakistani demands for Predator drones.


Ravens are non-lethal, short-range surveillance aircraft, a scaled-down version of drones sans munitions. Made by the US-based AeroVironment Inc., it is one of the most widely utilized unmanned aircraft in the world and is used by US allies including Italy, Spain and Norway, according to a wire story. US officials did not mention the cost or the delivery schedule of the Raven package, but indicated it was separate from higher-end drones that Pakistan wanted and Washington was considering.


Any Pakistani celebration over extracting even the so-called mini-drones though was tempered by the blunt and unsparing American action of striking while a Pakistani team was at the State Department.


In fact, the manner of the last three Drone attacks, each coming on the heels of closely-watched meetings between US and Pakistani officials, has led to fervent speculation that the Obama administration is intent on sending a message to Islamabad to stop palling around with terrorists. The high death toll in two of the attacks – 41 and 25 – has heightened the feeling that there is more to the strikes than merely targeting militant compounds.


With increasing bluntness, but still pulling some punches, US officials have implicitly asked Pakistan to cease its policy of fostering terrorist groups such as the Haqqani group and the Lashkar-e-Taiba as a strategic gambit. Pakistan publicly denies the charge, but has indicated it won't give up the policy without rewards and having its way, including a central role in Afghanistan at the expense of India (in effect bringing back Taliban), and more aid.


The US isn't biting so far, because the return of Taliban of the kind Pakistan backs means the return of dark forces, including al-Qaida. Although some US policymakers are pushing for engaging the ''good Taliban,'' few believe the group -- and now the Pakistanis -- can be reformed or trusted.


Over the past week, American officials have sent out ever tougher messages to Islamabad, letting them know that the Drones strikes will go on even if Pakistan stops cooperating on the intelligence front (one official suggested the US had its own spy network in Pakistan and could do without ISI inputs) and withdrew base facilities. According to the Pakistani media, the US has conveyed to Islamabad that the strikes will cease only if Pakistan initiates action in North Waziristan against its proxies like the Haqqani group.


Washington's drone drama with Pakistan came even as the Obama administration disclosed that it would deploy armed Predators in Libya, stepping it up from surveillance drones. The move invited criticism even from domestic quarters for fear that it will result in civilian casualties and escalate tension, although US officials insist the strikes are precise, and in fact reduce civilian casualties.


Similar protests by Pakistan about civilian casualties from US drone strikes have been undermined by the country's conflicting and contradictory stance on the issue. While the Pakistani leadership protests the US drone strikes publicly, it also keeps asking for the same drones and drone technology from Washington so that it can do the job itself. The wikileaks cables have also revealed that the Pakistani protests are a sham and the country's leadership privately assents to the drone strikes while riling up the public against US – a provocation that American officials have noted sharply and asked Islamabad to stop.


Some Pakistani interlocutors, including a top army general (Maj. Gen Ghayur Mehmood) and an academic from the Fata region (Dr Farhat Taj), have endorsed the US view that the drones strikes are mainly killing militants, with very little collateral damage. Dr Taj, a researcher based in Oslo who goes frequently to her home turf, has in fact alleged that the Pakistani Army is in cahoots with the Taliban in the region while punishing anti-Taliban locals who in fact welcome drone strikes.

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