The US on Thursday said that the progress made against the core of al-Qaeda will reduce the need for drone strikes in the near future, amid reports that it was planning to narrow its controversial programme in Pakistan to target a short list of high-level terrorists.
“The Obama administration will narrow its controversial drone programme in Pakistan to target a short list of high-level terrorists, and aim to end it during the prime minister’s current term,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, quoting unnamed US officials.
“That’s what they asked for, and we didn’t tell them no,” one US official was quoted as saying by The Washington Post.
The White House refused to comment on both the stories and also on changes in its drone policy in Pakistan.
“I’m not in a position to discuss particular operations, but the President made clear in his NDU (National Defence University) speech that by the end of 2014 in the Afghan war theatre, we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we’ve made against core al-Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes,” National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said.
In his speech at the NDU on May 23, 2103, Obama had said, “We will continue to take strikes against high value al-Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces.”
He had further said, “But by the end of 2014, we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we’ve made against core al-Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes.”
For the first time in two years, the month of January saw no US drone strikes in Pakistan.
According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the last drone attack was reported in Pakistan on December 25, 2013, 40 days ago.
At least three people were killed in this strike, the only Christmas Day attack reported in Pakistan in 10 years of drone attacks, it said.
The US intelligence leadership was pressed by lawmakers to reveal the numbers about drone strikes on Tuesday.
Congressman Adam Schiff asked the CIA to release an annual report on drone strikes.
“I think it would be a recommendation that would have to go to the administration, and then I would be a participant in the interagency process to discuss the advantages and potential disadvantages of it. But it’s certainly a worthwhile recommendation, if you would like to make that,” CIA Director John Brennan said in response.