US diverting drones from Afghanistan to bolster attacks on Pak-based militant havens

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Washington, Oct 2 (ANI): The US military is secretly diverting its aerial drones and weaponry from the Afghan battlefront to Pakistan, in order to significantly expand the CIA's campaign against terrorist sanctuaries there, which are being used by militants to plan and launch attacks on US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The secret deal to beef up the CIA's campaign inside Pakistan depicts the extent to which military officials see Pakistan-based militant havens as the primary obstacle to their struggling Afghan war effort across the border, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"When it comes to drones, there's no mission more important right now than hitting targets in the tribal areas, and that's where additional equipment's gone," a US official revealed, adding, "It's not the only answer, but it's critical to both homeland security and force protection in Afghanistan."

As US military officials realise that their success in Afghanistan largely hinges on the shutting down of militant havens in Pakistan, the surge in drone strikes there could also have far-reaching implications for the Obama administration, which is under political pressure to show results in the nine-year Afghan war.

The CIA operations, though well known, are technically covert, allowing Pakistan to deny to its unsupportive citizens its involvement with the strikes. While the CIA does not acknowledge the program, the shift of Pentagon resources has also been kept under wraps, the report said.

While Pakistan has quietly cooperated with the CIA drone program, which started under President George W. Bush, the program is intensely unpopular in the country because of concerns about sovereignty and regular reports of civilian casualties.

However, US officials revealed that there was less concern now about upsetting the Pakistanis than there was a few months ago, and that the U.S. was being more aggressive in its response to immediate threats from across the border.

"You have to deal with the sanctuaries," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry stressed after a meeting with Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in Washington this week. "I've pushed very, very hard with the Pakistanis regarding that."

The US now sees the need for a stronger American push in Pakistan because of the growing belief that Pakistan is not going to commit any more resources to fighting militants within its borders, said a former senior intelligence official.

The Pakistani military is tapped out, he said, adding, "They've gone as far as they can go." (ANI)

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