I wrote most of this post last night before the announcement that US special forces entered Pakistan and killed Osama Bin Laden and members of his family. It is noteworthy that drones were not used to attack the compound where Bin Laden was staying – were they not see as reliable? – but no doubt they were flying overhead recording the attack.
There has also already been much speculation about what impact this will have on drone strikes in Pakistan with some arguing that with Bin Laden death the strikes should cease. Others are arguing, however, that Bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan justifies further strikes. There will, no doubt , be more on this….
There has been a fair amount of speculation – but no official confirmation – that the CIA has been asked by Pakistan to leave the Shamsia Air Base in Pakistan. It is from this base, in South West Pakistan, where the CIA are said to launch their drones against targets in Pakistan (although the drones are controlled remotely from the US).
As we have detailed over past months, there has been growing anger in Pakistan at the continued CIA drone strikes and even senior Pakistani military and political figures are now calling for an end to the CIA’s drone strikes. It should be remembered that the CIA Predator drones are a different ‘fleet’ of drones than are being used by the USAF in Afghanistan.
The CIA’s drones, according to reports, will be moved to Afghanistan from where they will continue to attack targets inside Pakistan.
The drones transfer comes as Barack Obama has nominated the head of the CIA, Leon Panetta to the post of Defence Secretary while nominating General David Petraeus, the Afghan war commander, to replace Panetta at the CIA. Given that Panetta, has been a big supporter of drone strikes in Pakistan, calling them “the only game in town” as US Defense Secretary, he may well expand their use. Petraeus, too has been a supporter of drone strikes in his time as the Afghan war commander and will no doubt maintain their use as he oversees the continued transformation of the CIA from an intelligence gathering agency into a paramilitary organisation.