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‘Agreement’ with Pak for flying drones: NATO official

Pakistan has categorically denied the use of its airbases for carrying out attacks on tribal areas,but a NATO official begs to differ on the reports.

Written by ANI | Lahore | Published: February 20, 2009 10:34:30 am

Even though Pakistan has categorically denied the use of its airbases for carrying out attacks on tribal areas,Islamabad,the US,and other NATO member countries have had an “unwritten agreement” for the past three to five years to allow the CIA to fly unmanned drones out of airstrips located in the Pak-Afghan region.

“In the past week,speculation has mounted over the extent to which Pakistan was aware of such flights,amid evidence that at least some of the drones were being launched from airstrips in remote Pakistani regions,” a senior NATO military official told CBS News.

On Tuesday,‘The Times’,London,had claimed the CIA had been using the Shamsi airfield in Balochistan to launch the Predator drones that attack al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan for at least a year.

Another newspaper printed what it called were images of the site showing three predator drones parked on a runway. But the NATO official told CBS news “there is no single site you can name”.

“We are looking at different locations both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If the Shamsi base has been found to be a home for the drones,that is not the only location,” said the official.

“The locations keep on changing in both countries (Pakistan and Afghanistan). But yes,there are drones flying from locations in both these countries,” a NATO country diplomat stationed in Islamabad said.

According to a ‘Wall Street Journal’ report,Pakistan’s intelligence and military are secretly supporting the US-led unmanned predator attacks on militant hideouts in the tribal regions.

Islamabad has been regularly opposing the attacks saying they are proving “counter-productive” in the ‘War on Terror’,but Pakistani military and intelligence officials see the strikes as a success. “The Predator strikes are more and more precise,” a Pakistani official said.

There have been 30 missile attacks by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) since August 2008,and security forces have claimed to have sanitized more than 50 suspected militants in the last two attacks which targeted the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA),and North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

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