ISLAMABAD: According to a news report published in New York Times (NYT) the two latest drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt in early February were not a C.I.A job rather Pakistani military carried out those attacks.
However, taking a extra-strong exception, the Pakistan Army rejected the NYT report as baseless in an official statement issued on Tuesday.
Commenting on the news report published in NYT on March 5, an ISPR spokesman said that such an accusation is distortion of the facts and seems to be aimed at diluting Pakistan’s stance on drone strikes.
He denied Pakistan’s security forces having carried out any operation, including air strikes, in the area on dates mentioned in the news report.
NYT reported that local and international media, citing unnamed Pakistani officials, carried typical details: swarms of American drones had swooped into remote areas, killing up to nine people, including two senior commanders of Al Qaeda.
In Islamabad, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry lodged an official protest with the American Embassy.
The newspaper claimed that United States did not carry out those attacks.
“They were not ours,” said one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the drone program’s secrecy. “We haven’t had any kinetic activity since January.”
What exactly took place in those remote tribal villages, far from outside scrutiny, is unclear. But the Americans’ best guess is that one or possibly both of the strikes were carried out by the Pakistani military and falsely attributed to the C.I.A. to avoid criticism from the Pakistani public, NYT report said.
E-mail and phone messages seeking comment from the Pakistani military were not returned, the report added.
NYT further adds that if the American version is true, it is a striking irony: In the early years of the drone campaign, the Pakistani Army falsely claimed responsibility for American drone strikes in an attempt to mask C.I.A. activities on its soil, the report alleged.
Now, the Americans suggest, the Pakistani military may be using the same program to disguise its own operations, it added.
The two strikes, which took place on Feb. 6 in North Waziristan and Feb. 8 in South Waziristan, went unremarked on largely because they appeared so run of the mill.
“The Pakistan Air Force does not generally undertake stand-alone strikes such as these because it is not equipped with the appropriate strike weapons,” a Pakistani military source told NYT. The American narrative of those strikes is very different.
NYT reporters quoted two senior United States officials as saying that there had been no American involvement in the attacks, whereas a third official said the C.I.A. had not paid the reports much attention because no American forces had been involved.
But, according to NYT report another official said American intelligence pointed to the Pakistan Air Force as having conducted the first strike, probably as part of a military operation against Pakistani Taliban militants in the neighboring Orakzai tribal agency.
The second attack was more mysterious. “It could have been the Pakistani military,” the official said. “It could have been the Taliban fighting among themselves. Or it could have been simply bad reporting”, the official told NYT.