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Report: Pakistan secretly endorsed U.S. drone program

Oct. 24, 2013 at 5:45 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Pakistani officials publicly demand an end to U.S. drone strikes but have secretly endorsed them for years, a Washington Post report says, citing CIA documents.

The Post said the "top-secret" CIA files and Pakistani diplomatic memos show that while Pakistan's government -- as recently as Wednesday -- demanded an end to drone strikes in Pakistan it has been backing the program for years and routinely received classified briefings on strikes and casualty counts.

The latest demand that the program stop came from Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who met with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday in Washington. Sharif said the drone strikes "have deeply disturbed and agitated our people" and that the issue has become a major irritant in Pakistan-U.S. relations.

The Post said the documents describe dozens of drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal region and include maps and before-and-after aerial photos of targeted compounds from 2007 to late 2011 when the campaign was at its peak.

The report said the documents' markings indicate that "many of them were prepared by the CIA Counter-terrorism Center specifically to be shared with Pakistan's government."

The documents point to the success of a strike in killing dozens of alleged al-Qaida operatives while saying no civilians were harmed, the report says.

The Post said Pakistan's tacit approval of the drone program has been one of the more poorly kept national security secrets in Washington and Islamabad. It said in the early stages of the campaign the CIA even used Pakistani airstrips for its Predator fleet.

The report said the files reveal the explicit nature of a secret arrangement between the two countries although neither has been willing to publicly acknowledge the existence of the drone program. It said the documents deal with at least 65 strikes in Pakistan and were described as "talking points" for CIA briefings.

The documents are marked "top ¬secret" but cleared for release to Pakistan.

The report said a Pakistani Embassy spokesman in Washington did not respond to a request for comment. A CIA spokesman declined to discuss the documents but did not dispute their authenticity, the Post said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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