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Pak 'privately approved' US drone strikes while publicly condemning them: Wikileaks

By Abdul Nisar

Islamabad, Dec 1 (ANI): The Pakistan government privately approved US drone strikes while publicly condemning the CIA's covert raids, according to diplomatic cables posted whistle-blower website Wikileaks.

The revelations of America's secret war in Pakistan will deeply embarrass President Asif Ali Zardari, who has long denied such deep co-operation with Washington, fearing that it would embolden Islamist opposition to his feeble government, The Telegraph reports.

Although in public, both sides have described putting American boots on the ground as a red line issue, a cable sent by the then US Ambassador to Islamabad, Anne Patterson, stated that Pakistan had twice requested US soldiers to embed with its Frontier Corps in North Waziristan and South Waziristan, areas dotted with Taliban and al-Qaeda bases.

On both occasions, Pakistan asked for the help of US Special Forces to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance- including video footage from drones- to its troops. On one mission they helped the Pakistani soldiers target an enemy base with artillery, the paper added.

"These deployments are highly politically sensitive because of widely-held concerns among the public about Pakistani sovereignty and opposition to allowing foreign military forces to operate in any fashion on Pakistani soil," wrote Patterson.

"Should these developments and/or related matters receive any coverage in the Pakistani or US media, the Pakistani military will likely stop making requests for such assistance," she added.

A second cable describes the US envoy's 2008 meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, in which he brushed aside the concerns about the use of Predator drones against targets in the tribal areas, and gave an insight into how he would deny any co-operation.

"I don't care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We'll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it," he told Patterson.

The Pakistani government however dismissed the Wikileaks claims, with a spokesman for Gilani saying, "Our Prime Minister has made a very clear statement questioning the authenticity of these documents. There's nothing more to say."

But Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani analyst, said that the latest revelations would be deeply damaging to a government that lacked the strength to articulate its true relationship with Washington, for fear of angering the country's hardliners.

"There is no doubt this will fuel anti-Americanism and will encourage the Islamists and the conspiracy theorists," Rizvi said. (ANI)

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