Pakistan’s government may have rejected US calls to expand the CIA drone strike program into the western province of Balochistan, but that does not mean that they are going to keep the US spy agency out of the region.
Rather Pakistan officials are now confirming that the government agreed to a “compromise” that would allow a significant increase in the number of CIA ground teams operating in the Balochistan capital city of Quetta, one of Pakistan’s largest cities and also where the US believes Afghan Taliban leadership are located.
So far US officials have only confirmed the demand for more drone strikes, which have already dramatically increased in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The attacks have sparked growing anti-US sentiment across Pakistan, and expanding the attacks outside of the tribal areas would likely do much more to harm the credibility of the Zardari government.
This is doubly so if US missiles started falling on Quetta, a city of nearly a million people. Pakistani officials have also expressed concern about the US eagerness to start attacking this city, particularly after strikes in the more sparsely populated tribal areas have proven so unreliable.