Pakistani and U.S. military and intelligence leaders told The New York Times the nearly two-month letup in drone strikes has enabled Taliban fighters to move more freely, and has also apparently reduced the tension and infighting among various Taliban units.
"It makes sense that a lull in U.S. operations, coupled with ineffective Pakistani efforts, might lead the terrorists to become complacent and try to regroup," one U.S official told The Times. "We know that al-Qaida's leaders were constantly taking the U.S. counter-terrorism operations into account, spending considerable time planning their movements and protecting their communications to try to stay alive."
The Times said Sunday the CIA backed off after a U.S. airstrike in November killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in a friendly fire incident along the Afghanistan border. The strike caused tensions between Pakistan and Washington to boil and threatened to unravel their alliance against the Taliban and al-Qaida.
The move apparently came at the cost of a 10-percent uptick in violence in the tribal regions of Pakistan and unconfirmed reports that some government officials in the remote regions were cutting their own deals on unofficial truces with local Taliban elements.