The U.S. wants to repair its relationship with Pakistan while carrying out drone attacks inside the country. Can it do both?
Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman recently made an unsurprising statement. She said that her government has not approved any drones strikes. "It hasn't okayed any American drone strikes on its territory in exchange for Washington's apology over the Salala attacks," she said in an interview with CNN.Rehman argued that there are more effective ways to go after terrorists inside Pakistan, and that the Pakistani government officially condemns "unilateral" drone strikes on its territory.
The word "unilateral" here is important, because the Pakistani government collaborates with the U.S. on at least some drone strikes. It varies by target, but the Pakistani government is seeking greater control over target selection and intelligence gathering -- and not necessarily an end to the drone strikes. After all, the Pakistani government is fighting terrorists as well.
There is a surprisingly simple explanation for this seeming contrast between public statements by officials and what happens behind the scenes. Pakistani authorities don't mind it when U.S. drones kill off people like the TTP (Pakistani Taliban) leader Baitullah Mehsud. They do, however, mind when U.S. drone strikes happen without their consent or involvement, such as one in North Waziristan in May of this year. (There is a chance, too, that the Pakistani officials protested the North Waziristan strike because that is where Jalaluddin Haqqani, an Taliban-linked insurgent commander widely believed to be supported by Pakistani intelligence, lives)