MABAD - The US central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has diversified sources for drone operations on Pak-Afghan border after Pakistans growing anger and reluctance to allow use of its Shamsi Air Base for the purpose, sources said on Thursday.
According to the sources, CIA which has been using Shamsi Air Base in Pakistan since 2004 had to develop other sources, largely based in Afghanistan, to carry out its drone operations targeting al-Qaeda and its affiliates, allegedly using sanctuaries in Fata region.
Pakistan had asked US to vacate Shamsi Air Base shortly after the arrest of CIA man Raymond Davis, and since then CIA is primarily using Afghan soil to execute its drone operations, the sources said.
Sources further said that CIA is primarily using two airstrips one on Jalalabad Air Base and the other on Bagaram Air Base in Afghanistan to carry out its drone operations. The same sources said the CIA was also using some facilities in UAE to operate drones. However, this could not be confirmed form other sources.
When contacted, the US Embassy Spokesperson Courtney Beale said she cannot comment on the security related issues and advised this scribe to approach US State Department in this regard.
The CIA has been targeting terrorists hideouts in Pakistans tribal areas on Pak-Afghan border despite the opposition from Islamabad. Although USA has been claiming success in attacking high profile targets, which many believed were mere tactical successes, the drone hits have caused extensive collateral damage. Defence analysts believe that the US operated drones have not only belittled counter terrorism efforts of Pakistan but also generated anti-US sentiments among the tribesmen.
Pakistans political and military leadership lodged its strongest-ever protest with US when a CIA operated drone recently hit a peace congregation in North Waziristan killing many tribal elders and Pakistani security personnel. Similarly, another recent drone attack in South Waziristan earned a strong criticism in which a pharmacy shop was hit and many innocent people were killed.
There have been nearly 300 drone attacks in Fata region since 2004 in which hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands others injured.