US drone strikes to continue in spite of Pak protest

US drone strikes to continue in spite of Pak protest

Peshawar/Washington: The United Sates is going ahead with its deadly drone strikes on select terrorists targets inside Pakistan despite strong objections raised by Islamabad, with an attack on Wednesday killing six Taliban militants in Pakistan’s northwest.

The Obama administration has ruled out halting the strikes by the CIA operated unmanned planes, which have been billed as the most potent anti-terror weapon, ABC news reported quoting unnamed US officials.

“Panetta (CIA chief) has an obligation to protect this country (US) and he’s not going to halt any operations that accomplish that objective," the report said.

Pakistan’s intelligence chief Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha had conveyed his government’s strong opposition to the strikes and said Islamabad wanted to halt drone operations in his country.

Citing officials ABC said the US believed that the pitch for scaling down American covert operations in Pakistan was not coming from the civilian government but from the powerful army which wanted to use it to score political points.

CIA chief Leon Panetta met Pasha at CIA headquarters in Langley for two hours and 25 minutes and they were later joined by chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Admiral Mike Mullen.

US officials also believed that the reports that intelligence cooperation between Islamabad and Washington had broken down were “over written" for public postures in Islamabad.

But, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner acknowledged that Obama administration was negotiating with Pakistan on possible reduction in US intelligence operatives and special forces personnel there.

The two countries are yet to take a final decision on this, he said.

Hours after the comments by the US officials that drone strikes will go ahead, CIA operated an unmanned spy plane that fired missiles at a militant compound in South Waziristhan in Pakistan’s restive northwest, killing six Taliban militants.

Five hellfire missiles were fired at a compound in Gharr village in Angoor Adda area near the border with Afghanistan.

This was the first strike after a lull since 17 March after a row between the two countries over the issue of killing over 40 people, mostly tribal elders in a drone strike.