Several reports have emerged today that an unmanned US spy drone was downed in Pakistan’s South Waziristan Agency. A remarkably diverse set of explanations for the event have emerged, leaving what if anything really happened clouded in mystery.
One report has Pashtun tribesmen claiming to have downed the craft and Pakistani forces recovering it. Another has a Pakistani security official claiming the drone simply crashed on its own and was turned over to their government by tribesmen. Three Pakistani intelligence officials and a local security official insist that Pakistani forces shot down the CIA-operated drone with the help of tribesmen, and that the wreckage was still strewn about in a border village.
But another Pakistan intelligence official claims the Taliban shot down the drone on the Afghan side of the border. Meanwhile, multiple US officials denied having lost any unmanned aircrafts at all, shot down or otherwise. The US military, however, conceded that a drone did crash, but insists it was in Paktika Province, and not close to the Pakistani border.
The issue of CIA drones launching attacks in Waziristan is of increasing concern amid reports that the United States is engaged in a strategy of escalating attacks in Pakistan. Several US air strikes in North and South Waziristan have killed dozens this month, many of them civilians. Some have suggested the raids motivated Saturday’s enormous suicide blast in Islamabad.
Pakistan has repeatedly warned the United States as the attacks have increased, most recently when President Asif Ali Zardari met with President Bush today in New York. In an interview ahead of the meeting, President Zardari insisted that his nation’s military take responsibility for confronting militants inside its own territory, saying “give us the intelligence, and we will do the job.”
President Bush assured Zardari today that he intends to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty. This same promise was delivered by Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mullen last week during a visit to Islamabad, but was followed just hours later by a drone attack in South Waziristan.