WASHINGTON: The United States needs to hammer out a new drone deal with Pakistan as the Nawaz Sharif government is unlikely to continue the current policy of plausible deniability, says a US think-tank report released on Wednesday.
The report by Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, says that the new deal will have to be sensitive to Pakistan’s concerns and objectives.
“This will likely mean that Washington will face new constraints in its counter-terrorism operations. But managed with care, a new agreement could put the targeted killing campaign against Al Qaeda on firmer political footing without entirely eliminating its effectiveness,” he argues.
The report claims that before launching the first drone strike in June 2004, the United States sought personal authorisation from then president and army chief Pervez Musharraf. For several years thereafter, the Pakistani army claimed responsibility for all drone strikes, publicly denying American intervention.
The PPP government and the army under Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani — continued to green light the drone programme.
But this arrangement is unlikely to survive much longer in its current form because the new government will not want to continue it, says the author.
In September, Pakistan will have a new president and a new army chief and if Washington continues the strikes without a new deal, “one can imagine Sharif’s new army chief threatening to shoot US drones from the sky”.
And at that stage, “Washington would likely pull the drones from normal operation rather than play a high-stakes game of chicken.”
While discussing various options for a better understanding between the United States and Pakistan over the drones, the author says that in a new arrangement, Washington will be required to seek Islamabad’s pre-authorisation for specific targets and zones for strikes.
The two sides should also draw a list of potential targets and establish a mechanism for reviewing claims of civilian losses. The arrangement should include provisions for providing appropriate compensation, as the United States has done in Afghanistan and Iraq.