Did a Spy Flap Stop the Drones From Blasting Pakistan?
Is a spat over the diplomatic status of an American contractor in Pakistan responsible for the slowdown in U.S. drone strikes? Newsweek says so. But so far, the provable connections between the two events seems pretty thin — more like correlation than causation.
The magazine’s Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai published a story today claiming that anger in Pakistan over the case of an American employee at the U.S. embassy charged with double murder has caused the American government to take an almost month-long break in drone strikes in the country.
The last unmanned attacks in Pakistan took place on January 23, according to the New America Foundation’s drone strike database. That’s just four days before Raymond Davis, a “technical” employee at the American embassy in Pakistan, was arrested for shooting and killing two men chasing him on motorcycles. Speculation over Davis’ association with U.S. intelligence have only added to public outrage in Pakistan and chilled relations with America. It’s an open question whether Davis, still detained in Pakistan, is entitled to the protections of diplomatic immunity.
The Newsweek story connects the Davis incident and the strike halt with a quote from a “senior Pakistani official,” who says the U.S. has nixed the attacks recently so as not to further inflame public opinion in the country.
But there may be other explanations for the slowdown in drone strikes, such as increasingly cautious behavior on the part of the Haqqani network, a frequent target of such attacks.
“The Haqqanis have gone to ground and the pace of drone strikes was slowing even before Davis’ arrest,” says Joshua Foust, a fellow at the American Security Project, in an email to Danger Room.
Newsweek points to drone data compiled by The Long War Journal’s (LWJ) Bill Roggio, which shows two halts between strikes — both reportedly caused by poor weather — longer than the current period: one in late fall of 2009 (33 days) and the other in the spring of the same year . Bur in a recent post on LWJ, Roggio lays out other instances of notable gaps between strikes over the the past years.
Senior intelligence officials speaking to the Wall Street Journal acknowledged strained ties with Pakistan’s ISI over the Davis case and a drop in shared targeting data. But hey attribute the recent gap in strikes to poor winter weather conditions. Locals in North Waziristan contacted by the Journal described the weather recently as a mixture of clouds and sun.
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Saturday, February 19, 2011
Did a Spy Flap Stop the Drones From Blasting Pakistan? | Danger Room | Wired.com