First Drone Strike Hits Pakistan After NATO Incident

Posted January 11th, 2012 at 1:40 am (UTC-5)
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Pakistani officials say a U.S. drone strike killed four suspected militants Tuesday when it hit a compound in the northwestern part of the country near the Afghan border.

Tuesday's drone strike near Miran Shah in North Waziristan was the first such attack since NATO helicopters from Afghanistan mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the border last November.

Late last month, a prominent U.S. newspaper said the Central Intelligence Agency had suspended drone strikes targeting low-ranking militants in Pakistan for six weeks in an effort to mend badly frayed relations with the South Asian nation.

The Los Angeles Times quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying the CIA's “undeclared halt” in attacks was aimed at reversing “sharp erosion of trust” between the two countries, following a series of deadly incidents, including the NATO attack in November.

A joint U.S.-NATO-Afghan investigation concluded that a series of errors — including botched communications — on both the NATO and Pakistani sides led to November's incident. Pakistan — which did not participate in the review — rejected the findings.

The November attack prompted Pakistan to block the Khyber and Chaman routes to Afghanistan for NATO. The closures have choked major supply lines for the 130,000-strong U.S.-led force in Afghanistan. It is unclear, if and when, Pakistan will reopen those routes, and NATO officials say they are transporting supplies through other countries and relying on stockpiles in Afghanistan to sustain operations.

Drone strikes in Pakistan are credited with killing dozens of of al-Qaida operatives and hundreds of low-ranking fighters since 2004, but at the same time, they have infuriated many Pakistanis and complicated relations between Washington and Islamabad.