Pakistan denies US bid to widen drone-strike zones

Pakistan has rejected a US request to expand the areas where American missiles can target Taliban and al-Qa'ida operatives, citing domestic opposition to the strikes.

The refusal is a sign of the ongoing tensions between the US and its key ally over the program to find and kill Islamist extremists that have free rein in the lawless areas along the border, where they plan attacks against American and NATO troops in Afghanistan.



The US is increasingly relying on the missile strikes by remote-controlled drones flying over Pakistani territory to combat the militants, launching more than 100 this year and killing hundreds. Most have been in North Waziristan, where the Pakistani military has refused to launch its own ground offensive against the militant mini-state.



This week alone, drone attacks have killed 24 alleged militants, destroying a house and two moving vehicles.



The missile attacks are rarely acknowledged by Washington and Pakistan officially considers them to be a violation of its sovereignty. Critics condemn the program as amounting to assassinations that violate international law.



Pakistan privately tolerates the strikes along its northwestern border as a "necessary evil" but cannot sanction widening them into more-populated areas, said the official with the Pakistani Inter Service Intelligence agency, or ISI. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.



He would not specify which new areas the American side hoped to target, but an article in the Washington Post identified one as around Quetta, the capital of the southwestern province of Baluchistan, where Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar is believed to operate.



The American drones now operate in designated "boxes" in Pakistan's Federally Administrated Tribal Areas located along the lawless, mountainous border with Afghanistan, the ISI official said. He confirmed that US officials had sought both to enlarge the current boxes and establish new ones outside the tribal zone where senior Taliban and al-Qa'ida operatives are suspected to be operating.



The Pakistani side denied the request because the risk of civilian casualties was too great, the official said. The missile strikes already inspire deep outrage among much of the Pakistani populace, he said, and the government cannot afford to inflame more resentment by expanding them into more populated areas.



Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit condemned any suggestion of expanding the American drones' range.



"We have very clearly conveyed that we will not in any case accept the expansion of the area of these drone attacks," Basit told local AAJ television today. He also repeated the official line that Pakistan wants all the missile attacks to stop.



Basit also rejected the Post's assertion that the Pakistan had agreed to an increased CIA presence in Quetta, where the American spy agency would work with the ISI to hunt down Taliban leaders.



"There is no truth in it," he said. "We do have collaboration with all world's agencies, and we do have that for this war on terror, but as far as operations, they are conducted only by our security forces."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Internal Sales Executive

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Finance / Accounts Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...

Recruitment Genius: Bench Locksmith / Engineer / Technician

£14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading Key Cutting equipm...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss