US drone attacks inside Pakistan were ‘having an affect,’ said US National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, adding that Washington and Islamabad will decide ‘collaboratively’ whether to continue those strikes.
In an interview to Dawn after President Barak Obama announced his new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gen. Jones defended the drones strikes as effective and said they were causing low collateral damage.
‘They are having an affect (but) whether they continue or not will be up to the Pakistani government and our government working side by side in a collaborative way,’ said the general.
‘The attacks have done a couple of things: One, they have been targeted very specifically against al Qaeda, two, they produce very low collateral damage,’ he said.
This marks the first time a senior US official spoke on record on the drone attacks. US officials usually do not acknowledge their involvement in these attacks and instead urge journalists to contact Pakistani authorities whenever such an attack takes place.
The drone attacks were first ordered by the Bush administration. The Obama administration has not only continued those strikes but some Obama officials have indicated recently that the drones may attack targets inside Balochistan as well.
Meanwhile, another US official, Assistant State Secretary Richard Boucher, assured Pakistan that his country had no plans to send American troops inside the Pakistani territory.
Mr Boucher said Pakistanis, a US ally in the fight against terrorism, were operating on their side of the border. ‘We operate differently on the other side of the border.’
The US, he said, understood that the Pakistanis did not want American forces inside Pakistan. ‘We’ll respect that, but at the same time we want to make sure we are them supporting properly,’ he said.
Another US official charged with implementing US policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, acknowledged frustrations, calling the fight to bring stability to Pakistani border areas ‘the most daunting challenge’ of the new regional plan because Pakistan had imposed a ‘red line.’
‘The red line is unambiguous and stated publicly by the Pakistani government —no foreign troops on our soil,’ he said.
Gen. Jones said the new US policy focused more intensively on Pakistan than in the past, and said this was ‘normal, because it’s a newer problem.’
He said that Washington’s relation with Pakistan, were ‘in a restart mode; that is to say that we are having very intensive dialogues. We’re building trust and confidence between the armed forces.’
At a separate White House briefing, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and Middle East and South Asia expert, who chaired the White House review of policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, said: ‘Al Qaeda operates within a very sophisticated syndicate of terrorist organisations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.’
President Obama wants to make sure that this mission has a focus and a clear, concise goal, he said. ‘And that goal, as he spelled it out, is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, and to ensure that their safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot threaten the United States anymore,’ Mr Riedel said.