Thursday, January 21, 2010

U.S. Offers Pakistan Shadow Drones to Urge Cooperation

Via -

The United States will provide a dozen unarmed aerial spy drones to Pakistan for the first time as part of an effort to encourage Pakistan’s cooperation in fighting Islamic militants on the Afghanistan border, American defense officials said Thursday. But Pakistani military leaders, rebuffing American pressure, said they planned no new offensives for at least six months.

The unmanned Shadow drones, which are smaller than armed Predator drones, would be a significant upgrade in the Pakistanis’ reconnaissance and surveillance capability and would supply video to help cue ground or air strikes.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who is in Pakistan on a two-day visit, made the initial disclosure about the drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, in an interview Thursday with a Pakistani television reporter.


Shortly before Mr. Gates’s remarks, the chief spokesman of the Pakistani Army indicated that the army would not launch any assault against militants in the tribal region of North Waziristan for six to 12 months, pushing back against calls by the United States to root out militants staging attacks along the Afghan border.

The Army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, told American reporters at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi that Pakistan had to stabilize its gains and contain Taliban militants scattered by offensives already opened last year. “We are not capable of sustaining further military operations,” Major Abbas said.


Pakistan, which already has some limited surveillance capability, has long asked for drone technology from the United States, arguing that it should have the same resources to watch and kill militants on its own soil as does the Central Intelligence Agency, which conducts regular drone strikes in Pakistan.

American officials have rejected giving Pakistan armed drones. The Shadow surveillance drone appears to be a compromise aimed at enticing Pakistan further into the war and helping the country’s political leadership explain the drone strikes to a deeply suspicious and anti-American public.


American defense officials said that the drones would be for use in Pakistan’s tribal areas and would be restricted to defensive rather than offensive operations. One major concern for the American military is the possibility that Pakistan could use the drones against India, its archrival in the region.

The latest version of the Shadow is used by the United States Army and the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has a wing span of 14 feet, is about 12 feet long, is launched from a trailer by ground units and can fly about 70 miles.

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