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Pakistan Protests Latest U.S. Drone Strike as Ties With CIA Sour

Pakistan protested the latest U.S. missile strike on targets near its border with Afghanistan, saying the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of drone aircraft has become “a core irritant” in the war against militants.

“These attacks are creating a lot of problems for us,” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said late yesterday during a speech in the National Assembly. “The U.S. will have to stop these attacks. We are trying through our common friends to convince them.”

Yesterday’s strike in South Waziristan district was the first since Pakistan’s intelligence chief, army Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, pressed the U.S. for changes in attacks by pilotless aircraft and other CIA activities in Pakistan during meetings April 11 in Washington, according to unidentified U.S. and Pakistani officials cited by the New York Times.

Tensions between the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, have risen since Jan. 27, when a security contractor for the CIA shot and killed two armed Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him. Raymond Davis, released March 16 after the payment of compensation to the dead men’s families and threats by U.S. legislators to halt American aid, was one of an unconfirmed number of CIA contractors in the country.

Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement late yesterday that it had lodged a protest with the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad, Cameron Munter.

‘Strengthen Terrorists’

“Drone attacks have become a core irritant in the counter-terror campaign,” the statement said. “Such attacks are counter-productive and only contribute to strengthen the hands of the terrorists.”

Pakistan’s ISI has seen an increased CIA network in the country as a threat, said Talat Masood, a political and security analyst based in the capital, Islamabad.

For the first time since the two intelligence agencies joined forces to fight Islamic militant groups, the CIA “is trying to penetrate into Pakistan and influence events independently of ISI,” said Masood, a retired army lieutenant general who maintains contact with senior Pakistani officers. “This, for ISI, is a break of partnership and breach of Pakistan sovereignty and breach of confidence,” Masood said in a phone interview yesterday.

Pasha met with CIA director Leon Panetta and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, April 11 to demand that the CIA give the ISI more information about intelligence operations it has been conducting in Pakistan on its own, the New York Times said, citing unidentified Pakistani and U.S. officials.

Al-Qaeda Haven

“ISI wants the CIA to go back to fundamentals and readjust their strategy,” Masood said of the Pakistani demands. “I think that will happen because they both need each other. I see fewer drone attacks right now.”

U.S. government officials refuse to confirm or discuss the six-year-old program of drone attacks in Pakistan, which have targeted the Taliban, al-Qaeda and allied militants, while also killing civilians.

Calls by Pakistani politicians to restrict the attacks intensified after a March 17 strike that Pakistani officials said killed between 26 and 35 people in the district of North Waziristan, which the U.S. says is a haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.

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