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US made secret deal with Pak on drone strikes: Report

April 07, 2013 14:30 IST

In a secret deal, Pakistan allowed American drone strikes on its soil on the condition that the unmanned aircraft would stay away from its nuclear facilities and the mountain camps where Kashmiri militants were trained for attacks in India, according to a media report.

Under secret negotiations between Pakistani intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence and America's Central Intelligence Agency during 2004, the terms of the bargain were set, the New York Times reported.

"Pakistani intelligence officials insisted that drones fly only in narrow parts of the tribal areas -- ensuring that they would not venture where Islamabad did not want the Americans going: Pakistan's nuclear facilities, and the mountain camps where Kashmiri militants were trained for attacks in India," the paper said.

Pakistani officials also insisted that they be allowed to approve each drone strike, giving them tight control over the list of targets, the NYT added.

The "secret deal" over drone strikes was reached after CIA agreed to kill tribal warlord Nek Muhammad, a Pakistani ally of the Afghan Taliban who led a rebellion and was marked by Islamabad as an "enemy of the state," the NYT reported, citing an excerpt from the book 'The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth'.

A CIA official had met the then ISI Chief Ehsan ul Haq with the offer that if the American intelligence agency killed Muhammad, "would the ISI allow regular armed drone flights over the tribal areas," the report said.

The ISI and CIA also agreed that all drone flights in Pakistan would operate under the American agency's "covert action authority", which meant that the US would never acknowledge the missile strikes and that Pakistan would either take credit for the individual killings or remain silent.

While Pakistani officials had in the past considered drone flights a violation of sovereignty, it was Muhammad's rise to power that forced them to reconsider their line of thought and eventually allow Predator drones.

The ISI-CIA's "back-room bargain" sheds light on the beginning of the covert drone war which "began under the Bush administration, was embraced and expanded by President Obama."

The deal resulted in the CIA changing its focus from capturing terrorists to killing them, and helped "transform an agency that began as a cold war espionage service into a paramilitary organisation."

Yoshita Singh in New York
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