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Shift of drone strikes to Pakistan: 120 fall pray in 22 hits in Sept only

October 2, 2010

U.S. military is secretly diverting aerial drones and weaponry from the Afghan battlefront to significantly expand the CIA’s campaign against militants in their Pakistani havens.
The shift in strategic focus reflects the U.S. view that, with Pakistan’s military unable or unwilling to do the job, more U.S. force against terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan is now needed to turn around the struggling Afghan war effort across the border.

In recent months, the military has loaned Predator and Reaper drones to the Central Intelligence Agency to give the agency more firepower to target and bombard militants on the Afghan border.
The additional drones helped the CIA escalate the number of strikes in Pakistan in September. The agency averaged five strikes a week in September, up from an average of two to three per week. The Pentagon and CIA have ramped up their purchases of drones, but they aren’t being built fast enough to meet the rapid rise in demand.
The escalated campaign in September was aimed, in part, at disrupting a suspected terrorist plot to strike in Western Europe. U.S. officials said Friday their working assumption is that Osama bin Laden and other senior al Qaeda operatives are part of the suspected terror plot—or plots—believed to target the U.K., France or Germany. They said they are still working to understand the contours of the scheme.
U.S. officials say a successful terrorist strike against the West emanating from Pakistan could force the U.S. to take unilateral military action—an outcome all parties are eager to avoid.
Although the U.S. military flies surveillance drones in Pakistan and shares intelligence with the Pakistani government, Pakistan has prohibited U.S. military operations on its soil, arguing they would impinge on the country’s sovereignty. The CIA operations, while well-known, are technically covert, allowing Islamabad to deny to its unsupportive public its involvement with the strikes. The CIA doesn’t acknowledge the program, and the shift of Pentagon resources has been kept under wraps.
Pakistan has quietly cooperated with the CIA drone program which started under President George W. Bush. But the program is intensely unpopular in the country because of concerns about sovereignty and regular reports of civilian casualties. U.S. officials say the CIA’s targeting of militants is precise, and that there have been a limited number of civilian casualties.

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