December 14, 2009
After confirmation that the CIA has been operating drone strikes in Pakistani territory, a new report says the US is seeking to expand the attacks into the country’s cities.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday that top US officials were pushing to expand the air strikes beyond Pakistan’s tribal region and into the major city of Quetta to allegedly target the Taliban.
Although the US and Pakistan have long been denying that the drones were taking off from Pakistani soil, the CIA confirmed on Saturday that US security contractor Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater, has been helping the agency to launch the attacks from within Pakistan.
[efoods]CIA spokesman George Little quoted spy agency Director Leon Panetta as saying that US has been launching the attacks from secret airfields in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The new revelations also contradicted earlier US assertions that the notorious private security company does not operate in Pakistan.
Beside that, the Islamabad government and Blackwater itself had denied that the company was operating in the country.
The US claims that main Taliban leaders including Mullah Mohammed Omar fled to Pakistan’s Quetta after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Last month, a Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas rejected the presence of the Taliban leadership in Quetta, saying that US officials are making such claims just to cover their failures in Afghanistan.
The administration of President Barack Obama who has intensified the attacks in Pakistan says the raids are to target militants but local Pakistani media say that civilians are the main victims.
New US aircraft strikes in Quetta city with population of 850,000 under the pretext of targeting the Taliban could sharply increase civilian fatalities.
If drone attacks, now confined to small villages, were to be mounted in a sizable city, the death rate of innocent bystanders would probably increase, the report concluded.