A collaboration between WikiLeaks and the Pakistani newspaper Dawn is straining the already tense relations between the U.S. and Pakistan following the secret raid on Osama bin Laden's compound. A trove of previously top secret State Department cables shed new light on Pakistan's role in encouraging U.S. drone strikes in the country. Not only are senior Pakistani officials complicit with the unpopular drone strikes (that's been an open secret for sometime) but the documents reveal officials actively encouraging the bombing missions.
For instance, a cable in 2009 reveals a conversation between a U.S. diplomat and a high-ranking Pakistani official discussing a military operation in South Waziristan. The U.S. official asks if the Pakistani army has enough troops to carry out the mission and "after a long pause" the Pakistani official says that while the Army was likely capable, "the US could assist with continued strikes." Going further, the official advised the U.S. military to employ follow-up strikes immediately after the initial ones occur. “He explained that after a strike, the terrorists seal off the area to collect the bodies; in the first 10-24 hours after an attack, the only people in the area are terrorists,” said a U.S. official. He quotes a Pakistani official as saying "you should hit them again. There are no innocents there at that time." That official also “drew a diagram essentially laying out the rationale for signature strikes that eliminated terrorist training camps and urged that the US do more of these.”
Another leaked cable by then U.S. ambassador Anne Patterson in 2008 reveals U.S. concerns about Pakistani officials being able to stomach the drone strikes, while continuing to lie to their constituents about their complicity. “Pakistani leaders who feel they look increasingly weak to their constituents could begin considering stronger action against the US, even though the response to date has focused largely on ritual denunciation,” writes Patterson.
The new trove of documents dubbed the "Pakistan Papers" comes during a rough patch for U.S.-Pakistan relations. In the days following the bin Laden raid, Pakistani citizens have grown increasingly frustrated with U.S. violations of Pakistan's sovereignty. Though the U.S. and Pakistan recently agreed to put ties back on track, the fact that this was published in Dawn, Pakistan's oldest and most widely-read English-language newspaper, will likely have a large domestic impact.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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