CIA disclosures suggest strikes had tacit Pakistani approval

U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and delays in the trial of Lashkar-e-Taiba members accused in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks got top billing in the discussion between U.S. President Barack Obama and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the White House on Wednesday.

Coming out of their meeting, Mr. Sharif said to reporters here, “President Obama asked why the trial of the 26/11 attack has not started yet.” He also said during joint remarks with the President, “I also brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasising the need for an end to such strikes.”

While the White House did not formally confirm that Mr. Obama urged Mr. Sharif to press ahead quickly with the trial in Islamabad, officials had earlier pre-emptively pushed back on the notion of reducing drone strikes in the FATA border region of Pakistan describing targeted assassinations as “precise”, “lawful” and “effective”.

Diplomatic memos

Further leaked Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents and Pakistani diplomatic memos appeared on Thursday in an article in The Washington Post suggesting official, secret Pakistani approval of the drone programme.

The Post said that markings on the documents it obtained indicated that “many of them were prepared by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Centre specifically to be shared with Pakistan’s government”, and some of the documents, marked “top secret” but cleared for release to Pakistan, detailed at least 65 strikes in Pakistan and were described as “talking points” for CIA briefings.

In the days leading up to their talks, Mr. Sharif also indicated that he would bring up the Kashmir issue with Mr. Obama, with some reports suggesting he would ask for U.S. involvement in resolving the dispute.

Although there was no indication that the U.S. had changed its official position on this subject, that India and Pakistan had to resolve it through bilateral dialogue only, it was clear that Mr. Sharif did indeed bring up the topic.

Commitment

In their joint remarks he said, “I told President Obama about my sincere commitment to build a cordial and cooperative relationship with India, and our efforts to peacefully resolve all our outstanding issues, including Kashmir.”

Mr. Sharif also mentioned India in the context of counterterrorism issues, noting that terrorism was “a common threat,” and was “as much a concern to us as it is for India,”

and there was a need to “allay our respective concerns… without indulging into any blame game.”

In this context the joint statement made by the two leaders acknowledged that “no country’s territory should be used to destabilise its neighbours”.