Is Obama Drawing Down Drone Strikes During Pakistani Peace Talks?

But a senior U.S. official denied the administration has changed tactics.

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. 5, 2014, 6:52 a.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has scaled back its drone strikes after a re­quest from the Pakistan gov­ern­ment as it en­gages in talks with the Taliban, of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day.

The United States has already de­creased the num­ber of drone strikes in re­cent years. Pakistan was the tar­get of 28 drones strikes in 2013, down from a high of 117 in 2010. A hand­ful took place after Nov. 1, 2013, ac­cord­ing to Dron­es­tream.

“That’s what they asked for, and we didn’t tell them no,” a U.S. of­fi­cial told The Wash­ing­ton Post, adding that the ad­min­is­tra­tion will go after only seni­or Qaida of­fi­cials or im­me­di­ate threats to an Amer­ic­an.

Of­fi­cials said the de­cision fol­lowed a Novem­ber drone strike in Pakistan ahead of the gov­ern­ment’s talks with the Taliban. Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif said at the time that the United States was try­ing to sab­ot­age the ne­go­ti­ations.

The U.S. hasn’t launched a drone strike in Pakistan so far in 2014; it has launched three this year in Ye­men.

But a seni­or ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial pushed back against the no­tion that the de­crease in drone strikes is tied to Pakistan’s on­go­ing talks with the Taliban.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is “con­tinu­ing to ag­gress­ively identi­fy and dis­rupt ter­ror­ist threats in the Afghan war theat­er and out­side areas of act­ive hos­til­it­ies in line with our es­tab­lished [coun­terter­ror­ism] ob­ject­ives and leg­al and policy stand­ards…. Re­ports that we have agreed to a dif­fer­ent ap­proach in sup­port of Pakistani peace talks are wrong,” the of­fi­cial said.

The Taliban and Pakistani of­fi­cials were sup­posed to meet for talks Tues­day, but the Taliban de­cided not to par­ti­cip­ate.

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