NEW YORK, Nov 9: National Security Adviser Maj-Gen (retd) Mahmud Ali Durrani has warned the Bush administration that drone attacks inside Pakistan in pursuit of suspected terrorist targets continue to spoil relations between the US and Pakistan.
“It is very distracting for us. There’s collateral damage as well, which upsets the people. So it is not helping our plan. It really throws a spanner in the works,” Mr Durrani said in an interview published on Sunday.
In the interview with the Newsweek magazine following a visit by chief of US Central Command General David Petraeus last week, Mr Durrani said that both the president and the prime minister of Pakistan have told Gen Petraeus unequivocally, ‘No Predators please. You are not helping’.
“I think he (Gen Petraeus) understood the problem and our point of view. I think there was a realisation that when the Predator strikes started there was a feeling in Washington that Pakistan was not doing enough. Now Pakistan is doing more than enough. So these strikes become spoilers, rather than helping,” he said.
But Mr Durrani conceded that after assuming office President-elect Barack Obama might have to step in to decide whether these Predator strikes should continue. Asked about a strategic disconnect between Pakistan and the United States over the war on armed militancy with the United States hitting areas that Pakistan is not targeting, Mr Durrani said: “My assessment is that the disconnect is inside America … There are some elements in your security system who feel that the Predator (attack) is not the right way to go. And there are some elements in your security apparatus who think you have to (continue the drone attacks). So the disconnect is in Washington.”
Acknowledging that “General Petraeus’s visit was very useful”, Mr Durrani, however, said: “We appreciate he came here so soon after he took over. It shows his, the military’s, and the US commitment to the region. We were very happy.
“There were two levels of discussion. One was with his military counterparts, the Chief of Army Staff (Gen Ashfaq Kayani) and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Gen Tariq Majid). They discussed more military matters, more focussed on how to fight the war, what and what not to do. I think a message was given to him there also.”
He said that Pakistan army’s successful operation in Bajaur tribal area was being undermined when at the same time Predators were striking in North and South Waziristan.