Skip to main content

Report: U.S., Pakistan had secret agreement on dozens of drone strikes

By Steve Almasy, CNN
October 25, 2013 -- Updated 0443 GMT (1243 HKT)
A Pakistani protester holds a burning U.S. flag as they shout slogans during a protest in Multan in 2012 against the US drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal region.
A Pakistani protester holds a burning U.S. flag as they shout slogans during a protest in Multan in 2012 against the US drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal region.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Washington Post: Pakistan approved drone program, helped pick at least one target
  • White House says two nations routinely have intelligence conversations
  • Pakistan reiterates position that drone strikes must stop

(CNN) -- Pakistani officials have for years secretly endorsed the U.S. drone program, even picking out at least one target for such an attack, according to a Washington Post report.

Neither the White House, the U.S. State Department nor the Pakistani Foreign Ministry would comment on the story, which said top secret CIA documents and Pakistani memos obtained by the Post described at least 65 such strikes between late 2007 and late 2011.

The story comes as Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif visited President Obama in Washington. Sharif told reporters he brought up the issue of drone strikes with Obama, "emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked Thursday about the report.

U.S. drone strikes may be 'war crimes'
Why have drones killed civilians?
Former CIA official defends drones

"I can't speak to specific operational issues," he said. "What I can tell you is that on matters of bilateral cooperation and counterterrorism, we have regular conversations with Pakistan."

For years Pakistani officials have denounced any drone attacks, but the Post story says not only did they know about the strikes but they also actively participated in selecting some targets. One document from 2010 contains an entry about striking a site "at the request of your government," the Post said.

CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto said his sources have told him there has long been good cooperation between intelligence agencies in the two nations.

The Post report echoes what former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said in April. But he said Pakistan's government signed off on strikes "only on a few occasions, when a target was absolutely isolated and no chance of collateral damage." Still, it was the first time a top past or present Pakistani official had admitted publicly to such a deal.

Unmanned U.S. drones began launching attacks in Pakistan in 2004, by which time Musharraf had led the country for five years after taking power in a bloodless coup.

He said Pakistani leaders would OK U.S. drone strikes after discussions involving military and intelligence units and only if "there was no time for our own ... military to act."

Musharraf left office in 2008.

In a statement Thursday, Musharraf's office stressed that "during nine years of his rule, there were less than 10 drone strikes, all of which targeted militants, and a few of them were joint operations between [the] United States and Pakistan in locations that were not accessible to the ground forces of Pakistan."

The statement also noted that the former military ruler said in 2009 that "these drone strikes had become indiscriminate and were losing their impact due to claims of collateral damage to the civilian population."

It said that Musharraf "consistently demanded [that the] United States transfer drone technology to the Pakistan military, so Pakistan could take ownership in effectively targeting terrorists and also remedy the violation of Pakistan's sovereignty by [the] United States."

The Post report said the Pakistan government routinely received classified briefings, including before and after photographs, on the strikes.

Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, a spokesman for the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, said Thursday that Islamabad doesn't "comment on specific media reports citing unnamed sources."

Chaudhry reiterated Pakistan's public position on strikes in a written statement.

"Whatever understandings there may or may not have been in the past, the present government has been very clear regarding its policy on the issue. We regard such strikes as violations of our sovereignty as well as international law," it said.

The number of drone attacks has been decreasing sharply in the past three years because of tighter rules imposed by the Obama administration and the success of the program in killing its targets.

In August, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on a visit to Islamabad told a Pakistani television station that the United States hoped to end drone strikes there "very, very soon."

President Obama has a "very real timeline" for ending the strikes, he said.

This week, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released highly critical reports on U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. The groups said some of the attacks may have violated international law, a charge the White House denied.

CNN's Aliza Kassim contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 2232 GMT (0632 HKT)
ISIS has slaughtered hundreds. Now nearly 40 nations have agreed to take the fight to the militants. But what can they do?
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
ISIS has captured the minds of a new generation of global jihadists. What does it mean for al Qaeda?
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 0338 GMT (1138 HKT)
Treated with all due respect, volcanoes can offer some stunning vistas. Just don't fall in.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 0522 GMT (1322 HKT)
The blogger, the hacker, the PM... and Kim Dotcom? New Zealand's election campaign erupts in scandal.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 0236 GMT (1036 HKT)
In the aftermath of that deadly day, the enemy quickly became clear. But now a plurality of extremist threats tests global resolve.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Soviets put stray dogs into orbit. Then, next thing you know...
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 0928 GMT (1728 HKT)
Her name is Thokozile Matilda Masipa, and she is the woman who will rule whether Oscar Pistorius is a murderer.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1517 GMT (2317 HKT)
After months -- if not years -- of speculation, the tech giant's first foray into wearables has arrived. Here are our first impressions.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0805 GMT (1605 HKT)
Bali might be a popular tourist destination but there are crowd-free corners worth exploring.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1120 GMT (1920 HKT)
Scots are preparing to vote on the future of their country. Will they decide to leave the UK?
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT