ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- U.S. drone missile strikes against al-Qaida in northwestern Pakistan have been effective but are destabilizing the country, intelligence officials say.
Unnamed senior analysts and officials of Pakistan's main spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, told Wednesday's New York Times that even though as many 80 al-Qaida members have been killed in Pakistan, the drone strikes and Pakistani military raids are prompting Islamic militants to disperse their cells to other parts of the country.
The ISI officials told the newspaper that heavy public pressure is being put on Islamabad to oppose the drone attacks, which are deeply unpopular because of the civilian casualties they have inflicted.
The Pakistani officials also told the Times that al-Qaida was replacing its slain fighters and mid-level commanders with younger but more hard-core militants. The ISI considers them more dangerous because they have fewer allegiances to local Pakistani tribes.
The Pakistani assessment comes as a counterweight to a more upbeat report issued this month by U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, the Times said.