Top officials in Pakistan’s government have for years secretly endorsed the program and routinely received classified briefings on strikes and casualty counts, according to top-secret CIA documents and Pakistani diplomatic memos obtained by the renown American newspaper.
According to the reports it is described in detail that dozens of drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal region including maps as well as before-and-after aerial photos of targeted compounds over a four-year stretch from late 2007 to late 2011 in which the campaign intensified dramatically.
There are some markings on the documents indicating that many of them were prepared by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center specifically to be shared with Pakistan’s government.
They flaunt the success of strikes that killed dozens of alleged al-Qaeda operatives and assert repeatedly that no civilians were harmed, The Washington Post reported.
Pakistan’s implicit approval of the drone program has been one of the more poorly kept national security secrets in Washington and Islamabad. During the early years of the campaign, the CIA even used Pakistani airstrips for its Predator armada.
But unfortunately these documents exposed the unambiguous nature of a top secret arrangement struck between the two countries at a time when neither was willing to publicly acknowledge the existence of the drone program.
The documents detailed at least 65 strikes in Pakistan and were described as “talking points” for CIA briefings, which occurred with such regularity that they became a matter of diplomatic routine. The documents are marked “top secret” but cleared for release to Pakistan.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment. A CIA spokesman declined to discuss the documents but did not dispute their authenticity.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated his country’s objections to the drone campaign this week during his first visit to Washington since taking office this year.
CIA strikes “have deeply disturbed and agitated our people,” Sharif said in a speech Tuesday at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
“This issue has become a major irritant in our bilateral relationship as well. I will, therefore, stress the need for an end to drone attacks.”
The documents served as a detailed timeline of the CIA drone program, tracing its progress from a campaign aimed at a relatively short list of senior al-Qaeda operatives into a broader aerial assault against militant groups with no connection to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The records also expose the doubt and dysfunction that has afflicted U.S.-Pakistani relations even among the undeclared collaboration on drone strikes.
Some documents described tense meetings in which senior U.S. officials; including then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, confront their Pakistani counterparts with U.S. intelligence purporting to show Pakistan’s ties to militant groups involved in attacks on American forces, a charge that Islamabad has consistently denied.