US drone strikes ‘on hold’ in Pakistan: US official

As the US-Pakistan relationship continues to unravel, the US has placed its covert air campaign that targets al Qaeda and Taliban operatives in Pakistan’s tribal agencies “on hold.”

Several US intelligence officials involved in the CIA program, which uses unmanned Predator and Reaper strike aircraft, more commonly called drones, told The Long War Journal that US officials fear that an attack at this point in time would further damage the already fragile relationship between the US and Pakistan.

Relations between the two countries have been deteriorating over the past two years as the US has ramped up the drone program while accusing Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and other terror groups. The Raymond Davis affair and the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan earlier this year further inflamed the Pakistanis. But the Nov. 26 US airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops in Mohmand has led to Pakistan’s shutting down the Chaman and Torkham (Khyber Pass) border crossings to NATO supply convoys.

“There is concern that another hit [by the drones] will push US-Pakistan relations past the point of no return,” one official told The Long War Journal. “We don’t know how far we can push them [Pakistan], how much more they are willing to tolerate.”

One official was clear that the program is “on hold” but that they would consider striking if a target of opportunity presented itself.

“We may strike soon if an extremely high value target pops up, but otherwise there is hesitation to pull the trigger right now,” the intelligence official said. The official refused to say which terror leaders would cause the US to reconsider the pause, and attack.

The drone strikes have stopped since mid-November, after the pace of strikes began picking up during the previous two months. The last US strike was on Nov. 16, or 26 days ago. This is one of the longest pauses in the program since CIA contractor Raymond Davis killed two Pakistanis on the streets of Lahore in what he claimed was self-defense early this year.

In addition to closing the Chaman and Torkham border crossings, Pakistan has responded to the Nov. 26 strike in Mohmand by shutting down the Shamsi Airbase to the US military and the CIA. The base was used to support US Predators and Reapers flying sorties in Pakistan.

Also, the Pakistani military claims it has beefed up its anti-aircraft capabilities along its western border and said it would deny its airspace to the US drones. The Pakistani Army is said to be issuing shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles to its troops on the border.

Additionally, Pakistan boycotted the Bonn Conference, which was held last week as part of an effort to get the international community and regional actors to help Afghanistan and end the war against the Taliban.

The pause in the drone program, and Pakistan’s vow to shoot down the US aircraft, threaten the Obama administration’s strategy against al Qaeda. The administration has elevated counterterrorism efforts, of which the drone strikes are the premier tool, over counterinsurgency as the primary means to defeat al Qaeda and allied terror groups. If the US is unable to strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas, the terror groups headquartered there will again be able to operate unfettered.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Zeissa says:

    What the hell is wrong with the US?
    Last time someone worked with the Taliban they got invaded.

  • Goatweed says:

    Will Pakistan’s army fire shoulder fired surface to air missiles across the border at Allied aircraft in Afghanistan’s air space?
    Does Pakistan have an obligation under international law to not allow Pakistan’s territories to be used to attack another country?

  • Dave B says:

    When do we suspend all aid, visas, and money transfers?

  • Mr T says:

    I wonder if our aid money paid for those surface to air missiles the Pakistanis are threatening us with?
    Where is the International community on this? Pakistan needs to face pressure from someone else besides us. Why do we have to do all the heavy lifting including putting our soldiers lives on the line?
    The world needs to reign in Pakistans agressive jihad against the …world.

  • DickF says:

    The day that the Pakistanis start shooting down U.S. drones is the day we should substitute F-15Es and B-2s for the Predators and Reapers.
    Perhaps we should also regenerate a squadron of F-117As and deploy them to Bagram. That should be enough to wake up the Pakstani leadership.
    If not, we could send Kayani some overhead shots of ISI headquarters with the JDAM aimpoint coordinates superimposed.

  • Knighthawk says:

    “When do we suspend all aid, visas, and money transfers?”

    If they don’t plan on re-opening the crossing then now is as good a time as any as we’re getting nothing in return. If they fire on our aircraft that would another good time, not to mention firing back as who knows who’s actually firing since they’ve long since established they have no real control over their own border areas. The time for a plan B is upon us.

  • Paul D says:

    At long last the world knows the true enemy of Afghanistan,India and the West.we need to isolate this country in line with Iran

  • Scotty says:

    Hmmm… Pakistanis trying to shoot down US drones using shoulder-fired missiles… reminds me of a certain scene from the awesome movie “Four Lions”… Rubber Dinghy Rapids, Bro!

  • gitsum says:

    BIG PROBLEM HERE! cut all aid!( MY TAXES)

  • mike merlo says:

    “past the point of no return” sounds appealing, am looking forward to’what that’ looks like & how ‘it’ behaves

  • Robbie says:

    We know that Pakistan provides money, logistics, intelligence, blind eyes, free passage and sometimes actual troops/advisors to AQ/Taliban as part of their “be on all sides” strategy. This way they hope to be on the winning side regardless of whether NATO or the terrorists win the war. You almost get the feeling that Pakistan looks for ways to increase tensions and have the ability to blame the US for drone attacks, returning firing on Paki troops or other situations. Then they respond by cutting off our supply routes to Afghanistan, which softens the US up for the back-and-forth negotiations/haggling that goes on between the US and Pakistan.
    At some point the US needs to get Pakistan to understand that being an ally to the terrorists is the wrong way to go. We let the AQ/Taliban off the hook once before and they eventually regrouped and became formidable again. The drone attacks and night raids have been very successful in decimating the enemy’s leadership core. While security is still sketchy in Afghanistan, the enemy is paying a steep price for waging way and their overall strength degraded. At some point we need to tell Pakistan to be a true friend or we are done being their friend.
    How we chose Pakistan over India in this region was a huge blunder. Pakistan is a dsyfunctional trouble maker and India is relatively peaceful with a functioning economy and government.

  • Charu says:

    The tail wagging the dog! So our soldiers sit and wait for the Taliban to sneak across the border with Pakistani connivance and attack us? When does the IMF pull all its financial aid to this rogue country, and when do we retaliate for Osama and ten long years of treachery?

  • JRP says:

    one official told The Long War Journal. “We don’t know how far we can push them [Pakistan], how much more they are willing to tolerate.”
    This official and the rest of the U.S. administration better start thinking about how much more we U.S. taxpayers are willing to tolerate. It irritates me no end that millions of American tax dollars are going over to Pakistan so that its duplicitous intelligence agency can continue to cooperate with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in their terrorism and attacks on allied forces. This is idiocy on our part; can’t be explained any other way ’cause if it could we would be labeling it treason.

  • Stephanie says:

    If the US is really interested in having a friendly relationship with Pakistan, why don’t the US and Pakistan work together to fight AQ? Why does the US feel the need to launch airstrikes in the first place? If Pakistan is a friend, then why can’t the two countries share information and work together to arrest the bad people? I don’t understand why the US is saying out of one side of its mouth that they want to be friends with Pakistan, but their actions (going behind Pakistan’s back to bomb AQ without their permission) say they don’t trust them at all. Puzzling.

  • Imran says:

    Clearly Pakistan is in violation of international laws by committing daily aggression against Afghanistan, supporting and nurturing terrorist bases in Pakistan, providing fertilizers and other materials for IEDS that kill American and Afghanistan forces and civilians. Besides freezing all U.S aid to Pakistan, U.S. Adm should also prohibit remittances of billions of dollars by Pak-Americans to Pakistan every year, money that helps terrorists in killing American and Afghanistan people. President Obama can ban transfer of money to Pakistan under many U.S. security laws and regulations.

  • United States taken the correct decision and must stop the drone attacks over Pakistan. This is similar to invading in the one’s territory, and must have different policy to stop the terrorism.
    The war should be tackled with the dialogue in the world rather than military operations, I believe.

  • Azhar Ul Haq says:

    I just like to comment on comments, these comments shows that peoples are still not able to understand Pakistan situation.
    Since many decays everybody using Pakistan because of corrupt rulers, and American never gave trust to common Pakistani.
    Now Pakistan stand against attack on there Army. Why you peoples think that Pakistan accept like before?
    If a single American face dead in war , American kills many innocent
    They are human and others are not ??
    Don’t think Pakistan is like Iraq or Afghanistan , We are different . .
    And yes please do what you can , stop Aid, visas and money transfer . . . . May be we are more tougher then IRAN 🙂

  • Khan says:

    Overall effectiveness of drones is exaggerated beyond proportions; for every single terrorist killed, at least 10 innocent have been eliminated so far. In this perspective, why should yoy consider that continuation of drone strikes was a right decision, besides Pakistan’;s objections / protets in this regard. Also keep in mind, killing of innocent individuals, provoquing revenge, adds more terrorists to the existing lot.

  • Luca says:

    Well I think ISAF and OEF should definitely factor in the chance (which is almost a given) that, following this development, the MANPADS threat throughout Afghanistan will increase exponentially. It is also not such a leap of imagination to think that regardless of official directives from Pindi poor and disenfrenchised Frontier Corps soldiers will sell the system (Anza mkIII?) to their pashtun brothers over the border…

  • Gitmo-joe says:

    The Chinese must be laughing at us so hard they are rolling on the floor with tears in their eyes.

  • will says:

    A bigger concern should be how long until those Pakistani SAMs start showing up at the end of runways in Kandahar and elsewhere. I am sure there will be completely believable attacks on the convoys carrying them so they can be declared stolen too. Wonder if the Haqqani guys get to wear uniforms while they go through orientation on them as well.

  • Talha says:

    As the US-Pakistan connection keeps on to disentangle, the US has put its secretive breeze drive that targets Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives in Pakistan’s tribal firms “on keep.”
    Read More :

  • chris says:

    Isure hope we are tightening the financial screws on the Pakistan Military > I can understand they want to look strong, but cutting off fuel for our troops in Afganistan endangers american lives there should be repercussions.
    I saw on the BBC where a drone ( reaper ) crashed on landing in the sechelles. I imagine it was over Somalia or Yemen ?

  • Mr T says:

    This just in, US freezes $700 million in aid to Pakistan. More to come as Americans are fed up with the treachery of Pakistan.
    Oh, and Obama will not apologize for the killing of Pakistani soldiers. From what I understand, we asked the Pakis if they had any soldiers in that area and the answer was no.
    Sounds to me like Pakistan had some culpability there but thats not what they are telling their people or others in the international community. That’s a blatant lie by the Pakistanis to cut off our supplies and make the war effort more difficult. With friends like that, who needs enemies? Backstabbers.

  • Jessica Hull says:

    Just when did we have to get Pakistan’s permission to defend American lives?

  • gary siebel says:

    I am very curious as to what will happen to all the drones when they become “surplus.” Will everyone get to have their own drone?

  • Haja says:

    For sure, making louder will never assist you (U.S). Let us see what American can do and you will also see what your enemy can do!.
    Those who are saying our tax? Does the people of Pakistan need your tax? Pakiskan never need you. You are the one who need their because you are in there territory and you are supposed to follow their order if not i don’t know!

  • andrew says:

    only reason why Pakistan is ticked right now is because we are killing many of their ISI agents.
    ISI fund terrorist groups both in Afghanistan and within their borders. General Zia in the 70s/80s expanded the role of these jihadists, with U.S money of course, during the Cold War.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    The most powerful military on earth should not be dictated to by a backwater country with a backwater military about how we will conduct our drone operations or our military strategy…especially if we are giving them 40 billion in aid every year. I served four tours in Afghanistan and the Paki ISI were playing both sides down the middle back then, just as they are now…this isn’t anything new. We need to threaten to cut our aid to ZERO to get their attention and then maybe they will get the message.
    As for our drone program not being effective, anaysis after anaysis by independent NON BIASED researchers have shown that it along with our Spec Ops night raids, have been the single most effective tactic in beating the Taliban, Al Qaida and the Haqqanni network. That is a proven fact.

  • Eric says:

    The air assault with 24 PA KIA’a in Mohmand, while unintentional, has set in motion a disengagement from the ‘Engagement Strategy’, which is good to see. Pakistan is officially goading the US into the position which we should have chosen for ourselves. The Worst-Congress-Ever is also contributing to the correction, by suspending some aid to Pakistan contingent on actions against material support to the Taliban’s IED production. Congressional calls for review of aid to Pakistan are quietly gaining votes, nearly enough to overturn current policies. The stage is set for PA to overstep their bounds with their proxy warfare in Afghanistan, and with targeting of US air assets. We are well on the way to entering a ‘Containment Strategy’ with Pakistan, which is where things should be. In a years time, Pakistan blocking border crossings will seem ironic as the US imposes trade sanctions and restrictions on shipping through Karachi’s sea terminal, bans commercial air over Afghan airspace, and begins to choke off international banking. With sufficient provocation, the US will enter the FATA and Balochistan with boots on the ground, and Pakistan will have to put up or shut up FINALLY. It is a one-way road, and once started down it, Pakistan will find itself with few friends. Wait and see just how much support they get from China.

  • sports says:

    @stephanie…what rock did you wake up from under?

  • Charu says:

    @Imran, you are onto something! Squeeze the money supply that feeds the state terrorism. It is an open secret that many of these groups are funded by the Pakistani diaspora. The NYT recently wrote about how the LeT was openly canvassing for funds in the Gulf states and elsewhere. And the conviction of the ISI operative, Ghulam Nabi Fai, in the US revealed how Pakistani American doctors and businessmen laundered the ISI monies (and got illegal tax benefits in the process). This has to be the tip of the iceberg. How else are the Taliban able to sustain their attacks on Afghanistan for this long?

  • M says:

    Ha! Ha! Pakistan is already under seige by its own action. Didnt you hear that Pakistan wont be able to export/import from its port due to NATO supplies. Effectively Nato just mine Pakistan port. Let’s see who can last longer….

  • VR says:

    Pakistan is upset that 24 soldiers were killed in action by NATO crying hoarse that their national integrity is not being respected. Now explain what Osama is doing in their country and how their wives traveled to Islamabad. Can any Pakistani general explain how that is not a violation of their national integrity?

  • waqas says:

    I have only one question to American people here.
    Do you even know the fact why USA is there in Afghanistan, Iraq??

  • Nadeem says:

    The point is, will the US stop violating sovereignty of an independent nation? Will they share the responsibility of creating Talibans? Will the US stop supporting, training, using and then killing the likes of OBL? If that not happen, I am sure there will be every little weapon against the so called super weaponry of US in every corner of this world and then it will collapse as the USSR collapsed or as the US $ is falling like a shooting star. I would like my american bros to understand that the pain of hunger is always greater for those who never lived without bread.

  • Neonmeat says:

    @ Khan,
    Can you please cite where you got statistics for innocents killed in Drone strikes or did you pull them out of thin air?
    The drones have actually been very effective at targetting and killing insurgent commanders. This is why the Haqqani Network in Pakistan is worried, the ISI (whom they work with) therefore have put on the pressure to stop the US continuing these attacks.
    Pakistans territory on this border is porous and in dispute they cannot stop Afghans and Pakistanis crossing as they please. Pakistan simply cannot control its own borders and if US aid is cut then Pakistan will simply be a Chinese puppet rather than a Western one.

  • Nasir says:

    I feel very to see the contents of comments mostly posted by my American friends. They are so ignorant of fact and ground realities about Pakistan. I smell racial behavior of Western people towards Muslims specially towards Pakistani. Mind you Pakistan is not exactly what you see in your media. Pakistan is most liberal country in Muslim world. It is Nuclear power and has most sophisticated missile system. The only true democratic country where media is free as someone thing of a Western country. The people are well aware what is happening is all around the world. It will prove disastrous for American if they underestimate Pakistan.

  • Aziz says:

    USA should reconsider its drone attack policy because it is not beneficial for Pakistan.

  • NUS says:

    @ Khan
    Show me statistics and evidence that elimination of every insurgent by a drone involves 10 collateral fatalities, as you claim.

  • Tom says:

    Pakistan is the enemy! Repeat: Pakistan is the enemy. It’s time we completely understand that and the President should ask Congress for a declaration of war after he wins the election in November.
    We should use all means necessary to completely destroy the Pakistan military and then have our way with the taliban. We can end this nonsense in several weeks and be home in time for Easter. We need to end this nuclear menace to the region and the world.
    We should use our full and complete military capabilities. Repeat: full and complete military capabilities. We have been pussy footing around this for too long.

  • Bob says:

    I wonder what would happen to Pakistan if the US were to expel every non-citizen Pakistani in America?

  • @ Chris… No one must be allowed to invade in one’s territory and every country has right to defend itself.
    First amen mend right should also be given to other world people as well and boundaries of countries should be respected!
    and yes financial helps should not be given to any country especially to corrupt governments i.e. Pakistan, Iraq, India and many more…

  • Devin Leonard says:

    According to critical analysis, 90% of drone strikes kill bad guys, while only 10% kill civillians. This has been analyized by Janes Intelligence and STRATFOR.COM. They are both INDEPENDENT think tanks. So the idea that 1 bad guy is killed for every 10 civillians is just crap!
    As for the matter of soverign territory. If Pakistan is going to support terrorists that attack and try to kill US troops or mass murderers like OBL…we WILL invade their territory and use Spec Ops or drones to kill them. If Pakistan doesen’t like it….tuff titti:)

  • steve m says:

    Pakistan is the most liberal country in the world? WOW! Someone needs to get out more.

  • zzz says:

    pakistan doesnt need america actualy america needs pakistan for a safe afghanistan the crown superpower of america is at stake.a blow of defeat can deprive US from his throne stop talking about that bloody aid ..

  • drose333 says:

    I don’t give a darn about any stan, especially Pakistan! If PK shoots anything at us, BOOM! Bring the drones back to the bases and start using US pilots in 16’s. Pull all logistics, support, aid, ect. and see how long that corrupt government goes down in flames.

  • Mr. Wolf says:

    Drones have always been a “save-face” type of weapon (like the original Tomahawk). The pause in the campaign should give US commanders the time to rethink their position. The longer we attempt to control a situation from 30,000 feet, the longer we will allow the situation to continue. A drone can only send a rocket, a helicopter can send a crew, and a C-130 can send a platoon. I would never advocate a full scale invasion, but an Air Cav campaign (with intended withdrawl and artillery plans) with sustained battles for known safe-havens would reduce the resurgence of insurgents. If Pakistan doesn’t want to claim the Maz-e-Sharif area, NATO should set up shop and be proactive in disrupting the local leaderships. Tap FM radios, broadcast TV signals, tap wi-fi links, install cell phone towers/aerostats. If the Pak civilians won’t bring the news to them, NATO should. PsyOps do not need to be night raids to be effective.

  • Jake Scull says:

    US never takes or ever took any crap from Soviet Union, East Germany, China, Germany historically, why they are willing to give a wide berth to Pakistan…why cant US see that the enemy is this country called Pakistan…they will go to any extent to keep their antipathy to India alive even if there is a nuclear war…that is the reasons their generals with full tacit support of the civil soceity keep these snakes in the backyard…With this in mind they are even willing to bay American army…What US has to decide whether this war is worth it…I say not..just wrap up and send the boys home….then Pak will have no bargaining chips….next step bomb their military, nuclear assets and terrorists camps through naval the way they have no more than 2 weeks of Petrol and money to survive..what do we call such a guy..broke and should offer no resistance….

  • djst says:

    This is a nice little break in proceedings.
    Time to watch and gather some more information as the mad mullers get a chance to come out of their holes and get some sunshine.

  • Ahmad Gulam Shah says:

    @ Nasir
    “I smell racial behavior of Western people towards Muslims specially towards Pakistani”
    Islam is not a race. Some Pakistanis are Christians.
    And how are the Christians in Pakistan treated?
    “Pakistan is most liberal country in Muslim world” – Yeah right, people who criticize Islam, make jokes about Muhammad can be executed for blasphemy. Nice ‘liberal’ laws you have there.
    Why don’t you go and speak to ISI, Nasir? They will tell you all about their connections to Taliban and other terrorist groups that have fought India before they fought USA. Remember Ilyas Kashmiri?
    Time for some chai!

  • Neo says:

    “Pakistan is most liberal country in Muslim world.”
    That was closer to true a while back in the 1950’s through the 1970’s. It could be argued that even at that time Turkey had more stable liberal institutions, not by much though. Both countries were dominated by their militaries.
    At this point Pakistan is not the most liberal country in the Muslim world. In Turkey Erdogan has pushed both an Islamic social agenda along with economic modernization. He has made no move to dismantle Turkeys institutions and has successfully diminished the power of the Turkish military. Turkey has remained stable and is not a threat to its neighbors. We could get into the ways in which Turkey is not liberal, but relative to Pakistan it is far more liberal.
    Indonesia & Algeria are also more liberal than Pakistan. Socially and economically, Malaysia is probably the most liberal but not politically.

  • Lisa says:

    Yes, we know what’s going on…


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram