A new batch of US State Embassy cables released specifically dealing with the US relationship with Pakistan draw attention to a number of Pakistani political issues, the military aid the US has been giving Pakistan, the deployment of US troops in Pakistan and the growing conflict between India and Pakistan, which the US appears to be gaming to advance its own foreign policy.
The release is the product of a partnership between the Dawn Media Group and WikiLeaks that began in the last week of April of this year. Around 4,000 cables are to be released over the next few weeks.
There are numerous ways to begin to examine the cables. This post covers the use of drone technology in Pakistan.
Kayani Asks US to Loan Pakistan Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs)
The cable getting attention is 08ISLAMABAD609 sent out by Anne W. Patterson on February 11, 2008. It details a meeting between Pakistan General Ashfaq Kayani, Chief of Army Staff, and US CENTCOM Commander and Admiral William J. Fallon on January 22. During the meeting, the two discuss expanding military assistance and training along with improving cooperation in Afghanistan.
Kayani asks Fallon to assist in providing "continuous Predator coverage of the conflict area." Fallon is unable to offer the "assets to support his request" but offers Joint Tactical Aircraft Controller (JTAC) support for Pakistani aircraft. Kayani does not find this offer politically acceptable.
Fallon offers JTAC training for Pakistani troops. A brief discussion on the complexities of "building a night-capable, air-to-ground capability in the Pakistan army" ends with Kayani conceding such a "big project" could not be undertaken. But, during the meeting, Kayani does emphasize the need for tactical SIGINT capability for Pakistan's military aircraft. Though not interested in Predator drones, he would like to procure Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and asks if the US could "grant or loan them to Pakistan."
In December 2009, just as US President Barack Obama delivered a speech on sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, US officials also began to commit to more use of drones in Pakistan. The New York Times's Scott Shane covered this development reporting officials were "talking with Pakistan about the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time--a controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas."
(Note, the controversy was not that covert military operations were being considered in a country where war powers had not been authorized with congressional approval. The issue was that an area outside of areas where strikes had been much more acceptable was being considered. The Times also uses the CIA as a cover for military actions like drone strikes. See the headline for this quote, "CIA to Expand Use of Drones in Pakistan." But this isn't covert. The US is committing military personnel to the country. This is obvious in the cables.)
Zardari Welcomes "Acquisition of Modern Technology"
A cable on a congressional delegation led by US Senator Patrick Leahy (09ISLAMABAD1123) reveals President Asif Ali Zardari in May of 2009 requested the US use drone technology so his forces could take out the militants. He "welcome the acquisition of modern technology" believing having drones would make it more difficult for media or anyone else to criticize the actions the Army might take to protect Pakistan's sovereignty.
Another cable (08ISLAMABAD3677) focuses on the reaction in Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of what was believed to be the first such attack in the settled areas of the Northwest Frontier Province, outside of the tribal areas. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani sharply condemned the strike within "Pakistan proper," which US diplomat Anne Patterson describes as a "watershed event."
The strikes were "intolerable" to Gilani. In Pakistani Parliament. Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan criticized the Pakistan government's "inability to stop alleged U.S. incursion and asked that the matter be taken to the United Nations."
PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal cited the Bannu attack as evidence that the GOP must have a secret agreement with the US. Other parliamentarians claimed that they have seen drones hovering over Swat, and warned that future attacks could spread to Peshawar and Islamabad.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman also made an impassioned speech during the Assembly session against alleged U.S. action in Bannu calling it "U.S. aggression and violation of Pakistan's territorial integrity." Rehman's party will hold a secret meeting to discuss their future actions in response to the continued drone strikes, according to contacts within the party. The Bannu attack is particularly significant for Fazlur because he represents the Bannu district.