'US phasing out drone attacks in Pakistan'
The United States has decided to significantly decrease the number of drone strikes in Pakistan and eventually phase it out, a high ranking US official familiar with intelligence operations has revealed.
The official believes that the primary purpose of drone attacks was to eliminate the Al-Qaeda leadership from the region.
"Now that we have taken out most of these guys, the usage of the drone strikes seems decreasing. The administration used the drone strikes aggressively and killed the top Al-Qaeda leaders," The News quoted the official, as saying.
He maintained that the strikes had become more strategic and focused in the last couple of years, yet the reaction to these strikes in Pakistan suggested that they were highly counterproductive.
Quite recently, the pace of the strikes has slowed down, and there have only been a couple of strikes since Obama's re-election in November. These strikes took out high profile "foreigners," a term often used to describe Arab Al-Qaeda operatives or members of regional terror groups outside Pakistan. The decrease in strikes comes because of the continuous pressure from the Pakistani leadership as well, the paper stated.
In various high level meetings, the US administration officials were explicitly told that Al-Qaeda had mostly been degraded, and there was no point aiming these missiles at Taliban foot soldiers. Pakistan has maintained that drones were creating more recruits for the terrorists, the paper further said.
Pentagon spokesperson Bill Speaks said: "Our security relationship with Pakistan is clearly moving in the right direction and we are continuing to engage with Pakistan to ensure this positive momentum continues."
He, however, did not comment on the slowing down of the drone attacks.
Obama's drone campaign started three days into the first term of his presidency. But as President Obama got elected for his second term, the drone strikes policy has taken a back seat, according to the paper.
Some figures collected by independent organisations claim that out of more than 350 drone strikes since 2004, a little over 50 were carried out under the Bush administration.