Drone attacks 'taking serious toll' on al-Qaeda in Pakistan
Published 21/10/2010 | 15:18
American drone attacks are "taking a serious toll" on al-Qaeda's leadership in Pakistan's tribal areas close to the Afghan border, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.
Leon Panetta, the CIA director, said the organisation had been able to intensify its operations in the terrorist group's Pakistan 'safe-haven' through the personal support of Barack Obama, the US president, increased intelligence co-operation from Pakistan, and through "additional capabilities".
Although he did not specifically mention the increased deployment of drones, the 'additional capabilities' is a direct reference to them.
The use of unmanned Predator drones is not directly acknowledged by the United States because of the sensitivity in Pakistan, where they are regarded as a breach of its sovereignty.
In this year so far the United States has launched more than 88 drone attacks compared with 53 for the whole of last year. The escalation of America's drone war in Pakistan is believed to have driven some Taliban and al-Qaeda figures to seek safety in Karachi and other "settled" parts of the country.
The leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a drone attack last year, while several other leading militant commanders have been killed or seriously wounded.
"The basis for that increased pace [of operations] is intelligence, weather and also just the threat streams we're getting on potential attacks in Europe," Mr Panetta said, while it had been made possible by "more hardware" and political support.
"The president's been very supportive, obviously, of this operation," he said.
Pakistan's ISI intelligence service, which is often regarded as obstructive, had been "very co-operative," he added.