US, Pakistan share drone data: general
By Anwar Iqbal, Dawn, November 21, 2008
WASHINGTON, Nov 20: The United States not only has an understanding with Pakistan to attack suspected terrorist targets inside its borders but also shares with the Pakistani military top-secret video feeds from Predator drones that carry out such attacks, says a senior US general.
“We exchange frequencies. We exchange intelligence. We have a Predator feed going down to the one border coordination centre at Torkham Gate that’s looked at by the Pakistan Military, Afghan Military, and the International Security Assistance Force,” Gen David McKiernan, who heads US and allied forces in Afghanistan, told a Washington think-tank.
Since the beginning of August, US Predator and Reaper drones have struck at least 20 times on Pakistani targets. But Wednesday’s attack on a village in Bannu was the first inside a settled area and caused widespread anger and outrage across the country.
The US neither confirms nor denies it is behind the missile strikes, but US officials have been reported as saying they have killed key Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan in recent months.
In an e-mail to a US news outlet, a spokesman for Gen McKiernan said that while “unmanned aerial vehicles operating within the borders of Afghanistan may fall under his command … anything in Pakistan would not come under his command.”
When a US-made drone went down in Pakistan in late September, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen also took advantage of this operational detail that places some drones under the US military while others are operated by the CIA.
He said that the wreckage of the drone shown on Pakistani television channels were not a US military UAV.
This ambiguity also allows Pakistani officials to protest each time a target inside Pakistan is hit, knowing that Washington will not react negatively to their protest.
But in his presentation to the Washington think-tank, Gen McKiernan claimed that during the last six months, the coordination between the two armies had further improved.
“We have started from talking to each other and today we coordinate tactical level operations along the border between Bajaur with the Pakistan Frontier Corps military conducting operations and the US 101st (airborne division) in the province of Kunar,” he said.
“And I think that’s a good news story,” he added. “The FC needs a lot of help in training and equipping to conduct security operations in the tribal areas as does the Pakistan military.”
He noted that the Pakistan Army, once “a very conventional army,” was now readjusting like other armies to counter-insurgency operations.