U.S. Looking Outside of Afghanistan to Launch Pakistan Drone Strikes

But officials said closing U.S. bases in Afghanistan would hinder the CIA’s intelligence-gathering.

Maintenence personel check a Predator drone operated by U.S. Office of Air and Marine (OAM), before its surveillance flight near the Mexican border on March 7, 2013 from Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Feb. 18, 2014, 2:53 a.m.

With U.S. in­volve­ment in Afgh­anistan after this year still un­clear, the ad­min­is­tra­tion is look­ing for oth­er ways to launch drones in­to Pakistan, of­fi­cials said.

Of­fi­cials told the Los Angeles Times that the ad­min­is­tra­tion is look­ing at oth­er bases in Cent­ral Asia, but noted that mov­ing out of Afgh­anistan will hinder the CIA’s abil­ity to launch timely strikes in Pakistan’s moun­tain­ous bor­der re­gion.

“There is an enorm­ous amount of hu­man in­tel­li­gence col­lec­ted that sup­ports the strikes, and those bases are a key part of it,” one of­fi­cial said.

The United States has yet to get a bi­lat­er­al se­cur­ity agree­ment with Afgh­anistan, and without it all U.S. forces will pull out of the coun­try by the end of the year. Afghan Pres­id­ent Ham­id Kar­zai said the pact could be signed after the coun­try’s elec­tions this spring.

Mil­it­ary planes cur­rently ac­com­pany the CIA’s drones in Afgh­anistan, and of­fi­cials said if the U.S. bases in Afgh­anistan close they could move the drones to north­ern coun­tries, but didn’t spe­cif­ic which.

It’s not the first time of­fi­cials have ac­know­ledged con­tin­gency plan­ning in its abil­ity to launch drone strikes against ter­ror­ist or­gan­iz­a­tions in Pakistan.

De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel said earli­er this month that he didn’t want to “get in­to the spe­cif­ics of what our plans are on in­tel­li­gence and drone strikes,” not­ing that “you’re con­stantly up­dat­ing and chan­ging … where you pos­ture those as­sets, where the threats are most sig­ni­fic­ant, where do you have al­lies that are will­ing to work with you.”

But the ad­min­is­tra­tion has scaled back its use of drones in re­cent years. Pakistan was the tar­get of 28 drones strikes in 2013, down from a high of 117 in 2010.

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