The Pakistani government has repeatedly reiterated its position that the US must stop all drone strikes inside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Despite this, the US drones continue to fly out of Pakistani air bases to launch those attacks.
This has raised questions about how serious Pakistan is about the demands, particularly given the Zardari government’s long history of angry denials of their past support for the drone program. But the US has ruled out ending the strikes, and even if Pakistan forces the US to stop using its airbases, the drones likely won’t be going anywhere.
In comments given at an IISS conference, Col. Dean Bushey, the deputy director of the Army’s drone center, insisted US drones could still easily reach the FATA even if they took off from occupied Afghanistan. Since the US is openly talking about keeping bases in Afghanistan forever, this could mean FATA would be under target essentially forever as well.
Of course this is all purely speculative: Pakistan has so far not asked the US to stop using its air fields. This more than anything else seems to give some support to the claims by US officials that despite the Zardari government’s recent rhetorical change, behind the scenes everything is business as usual.
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