By Elliot Jager
There has been a moratorium on the use of drones in the U.S. counter terror campaign in Pakistan, the Washington Post reports.
The suspension was put in place at the request of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is attempting to negotiate with the country’s Taliban groups.
“That’s what they asked for, and we didn’t tell them no,” a U.S. official told the Post.
But counterterror attacks against al-Qaida targets in Pakistan, if any present themselves, have not been suspended. The use of drone strikes in counterterrorism elsewhere, including Yemen, is also unaffected.
Meanwhile, an unnamed senior Obama administration source also told the Post that press reports about a change in policy were wrong.
Still, there have been no drone strikes since December. In November, a strike killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud. The Pakistani government at the time said the hit derailed peace talks that had been scheduled to begin.
Separately, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, took exception during an open hearing to changes made by President Barack Obama in 2013 that narrowed the criteria regarding when drones may be used.
Now, only al-Qaida operatives who present an imminent danger to Americans can be targeted, and only when there is a “near certainty” a strike would not bring about civilian casualties.
Rogers said that “individuals who would have been previously removed from the battlefield by U.S. counterterrorism operations for attacking or plotting to attack against U.S. interests remain free because of self-imposed red tape.”
He was referring to al-Qaida’s presence in Yemen, Syria and Africa. The chairman did not comment on the purported Pakistan moratorium. Rogers said the new guidelines “are an utter and complete failure, and they leave Americans’ lives at risk,” the Post reported.
Testifying at the House Intelligence Committee hearing James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, said he did not agree that the new guidelines on drone use put the country at increased peril. He said the danger comes from the transformation of the al-Qaida threat, “its diffusion, its globalization and its franchising,” the Post reported.
Also at the hearing, California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff called on the intelligence community to release aggregate data annually specifying the number of terrorists the United States had killed as well as how many civilians might have died as a result of the strikes.
In a related development, the latest effort at peace talks between Islamabad and the Pakistani Taliban was delayed on Tuesday because two members of a Taliban delegation refused to take part.
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