U.S. drones fired missiles at Taliban hideouts in Pakistan, killing at least 13 militants, officials said on Thursday. In response to the deadly attack on Karachi airport, these are the first such raids by unmanned CIA aircraft in six months.
Two top government officials said Islamabad had given the Americans “express approval” for the strikes. It is the first time Pakistan has admitted to such cooperation. Underlining the country’s alarm over the brazen Taliban attack on the airport, this comes just weeks after peace talks with the Islamist militants stalled.
Another official said Pakistan had asked the United States for help after the attack on the country’s busiest airport on Sunday, and would be intensifying air strikes on militant hideouts in coming days. Pakistan publicly opposes U.S. drone strikes, saying they kill too many civilians and violate its sovereignty. However, in private, officials have admitted the government supports them.
“The attacks were launched with the express approval of the Pakistan government and army,” an official said. “It is now policy that the Americans will not use drones without permission from the security establishment here. There will be complete coordination and Pakistan will be in the loop. “We understand that drones will be an important part of our fight against the Taliban now,” the official added.
The strikes were the first in the nuclear-armed South Asian nation since an attack in December last year in which three suspected militants were killed. The CIA conducts covert drone operations against terrorism suspects. Speculation has been rising that Pakistan is preparing for a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan. This is a scenario Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has resisted for months in favor of a negotiated end to the insurgency.
Talks with the Taliban have collapsed many times since Sharif announced his plan in February and set up a committee of negotiators, mainly over Taliban demands that the government withdraw all troops from tribal areas and impose Sharia law.
Report compiled with information from Reuters and The Associated Press.