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Pakistan denies New York Times report on drones

The New York Times is taking heat from the Pakistani military today after reporting that two lethal airstrikes carried out in early February were not the work of the United States, according to its sources, and may have been carried out by Pakistan instead. In a statement issued by the military’s media arm, Pakistan said ...

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A Pakistani demonstrator holds a burning US flag during a protest in Multan on January 8, 2013, against the drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas. At least eight militants were killed and four others wounded on January 8 when US drones fired missiles at militant compounds in a lawless Pakistani tribal area, security officials said. AFP PHOTO/S.S MIRZA (Photo credit should read S.S MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images)

The New York Times is taking heat from the Pakistani military today after reporting that two lethal airstrikes carried out in early February were not the work of the United States, according to its sources, and may have been carried out by Pakistan instead.

In a statement issued by the military’s media arm, Pakistan said the Times report is a "distortion of the facts" and denied carrying out any operation, including airstrikes, on the dates described in the Times piece.

The surprising thing about the Times story last night was that it flipped the conventional narrative of U.S.-Pakistani drone relations on its head. Over the years, the perception has been that the Pakistani military is silently supporting U.S. drone strikes while denouncing them publicly. In the Times story, however, U.S. officials tell reporter Declan Walsh that the CIA wasn’t responsible for two reported strikes in North and South Waziristan on Feb. 6 and Feb. 8, which Pakistani officials publicly denounced. In fact, the officials suspect that Pakistan carried out the strikes:

"They were not ours," said one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the drone program’s secrecy. "We haven’t had any kinetic activity since January."

[…]

Americans’ best guess is that one or possibly both of the strikes were carried out by the Pakistani military and falsely attributed to the C.I.A. to avoid criticism from the Pakistani public.

Pakistan is having none of it. Below is a statement published by the directorate of Inter Services Public Relations, the Pakistani military’s media arm:

Commenting on a news report published in New York Times on March 5, an ISPR spokesman said that such an accusation is distortion of the facts and seems to be aimed at diluting Pakistan’s stance on drone strikes. He denied Pakistan’s security forces having carried out any operation, including air strikes, in the area on dates mentioned in the news report.

That leaves us with two airstrikes that reportedly killed nine people, including two senior commanders of al Qaeda. And no one taking responsibility.

John Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013. @john_hudson

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