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US drones for Libya

The phrase “mission creep” rang out loud and repeatedly here as the US military announced on Thursday it was using unmanned drones to help Nato prevent Muammar Gaddafi from attacking opponents to his regime. Yashwant Raj reports.

world Updated: Apr 23, 2011 01:29 IST
Yashwant Raj

The phrase “mission creep” rang out loud and repeatedly here as the US military announced on Thursday it was using unmanned drones to help Nato prevent Muammar Gaddafi from attacking opponents to his regime.

These are the same drones that the US is using to hunt down al Qaeda and the Taliban on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and which the Pakistani army wants stopped, even at the risk of losing its ATM machine.

“He (the US president) has approved the use of armed Predators, and I think that today may in fact have been their first mission,” said US secretary of defence Robert Gates.

But, is that ground enough for fearing “mission creep”, a term used to describe the US’s imminent entrance into a war theatre despite its state objective in the initial stages of not letting it happen.

While taking the lead in the initial stages of hostilities against Libya, Obama stated repeatedly and clearly, with the domestic audience in mind, that there will be no US boots on the ground.

At that stage the US was only using its combat aircraft to enforce a no-fly zone — essentially prevent Gaddafi from using his air force against the rebels. The US soon pulled out, letting the UK and France lead the Nato charge.

But questions were soon being raised about the efficacy of a Nato operation minus the US. A security expert who has worked with the Obama administration told HT, “There is no Nato without the US.” He wanted his identity to be protected given the nature of his work.

“I think that the president has been firm, for example, on boots on the ground. …He said from the outset that where we had unique assets that could contribute, we would do that. I think this is a very limited additional role on our part.”

The US committed $25 million on Wednesday and predators on Thursday. Mission creep seems well and truly in motion.

Pak to get 85 American drones

The United States will supply 85 small drones to Pakistan to help it fight militants in the country’s tribal areas, according to a TV report. A local TV channel — Express — quoted an unidentified US military officials as saying that Pakistan confirming the delivery, Xinhua reports.

The news came shortly after US President Barack Obama’s top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, paid a visit to Pakistan.