The US will provide a dozen unarmed aerial spy drones to Pakistan for the first time as part of an effort to encourage Pakistan’s cooperation in fighting Islamic militants on the Afghanistan border, American defense officials said on Thursday.
But Pakistani military leaders, rebuffing US pressure, said they planned no new offensives for at least six months.
The Shadow drones, which are smaller than armed Predator drones, will be a significant upgrade in the Pakistanis’ reconnaissance and surveillance ability and will supply video to help cue strikes from the ground or the air.
Defense Secretary Robert M Gates disclosed plans for the drones in an interview on Thursday with a Pakistani television reporter.
Asked if the US planned to provide the Pakistani military with drones, something it has long requested, Gates replied, “There are some tactical UAV’s that we are considering, yes.”
Pakistan’s refusal to attack North Warizistan scored difficulties that President Obama now faces in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Even as the Taliban have stepped up attacks on both sides of the border, the Pakistani Army has been reluctant to take on all of its factions in tribal areas.
Pakistan, which already has limited surveillance ability, has long asked for drone technology from the US, arguing that it should have the same resources to watch and kill militants on its own soil as does the Central Intelligence Agency.
American officials have rejected giving Pakistan armed drones. The Shadow surveillance drone appears to be a compromise aimed at enticing Pakistan further into the war.
“It will have a very positive political impact,” said Talat Masood, a retired general in Islamabad. “It will reduce the embarrassment of the political leadership.”
American defense officials said the drones would be for use in Pakistan’s tribal areas. One major concern for the US military is the possibility that Pakistan could use the drones against India.