An unnamed US official said the drone programme was “on hold” but that they would consider striking if a target of opportunity presented itself.—File Photo

WASHINGTON: The United States has put drone strikes in Pakistan “on hold” to save a post-9/11 alliance that’s on life support, according to a trusted website that focuses on the war against terrorists.

Several US intelligence officials involved in the CIA programme, which uses unmanned Predator and Reaper strike aircraft, more commonly called drones, told The Long War Journal that US officials feared that an attack at this point in time would further damage the already fragile relationship between the US and Pakistan.

Relations between the two countries have been deteriorating over the past two years as the US has ramped up the drone programme while accusing Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

“There is concern that another hit (by the drones) will push US-Pakistan relations past the point of no return,” one official told The Long War Journal. “We don’t know how far we can push them (Pakistan), how much more they are willing to tolerate.”

Another US official said the programme was “on hold” but that they would consider striking if a target of opportunity presented itself. “We may strike soon if an extremely high-value target pops up, but otherwise there is hesitation to pull the trigger right now,” the intelligence official said.

The official refused to say which terrorist leaders would cause the US to reconsider the pause.

The drone strikes have stopped since mid-November, after the pace of strikes began picking up during the previous two months. The last US strike was on Nov 17, or 25 days ago.

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