Secret 2004 US-Pakistan Deal Revealed: CIA Assassination In Exchange for Drone Airspace

Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Nek Mohammed (AP Photo)

In the early years of the President George W. Bush’s war on terror following the September 11, 2001, attacks, the United States wanted to hunt down threats inside Pakistan. But the Pakistani government was unwilling to grant the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) such access—unless there was something to be gained for them.


Nek Muhammad turned out to be just the thing.


Muhammad, a Pashtun tribesman, was an ally of the Taliban who had been labeled an enemy of the state after leading a tribal rebellion. Pakistani officials wanted him eliminated, so the CIA came up with a proposition: Let us kill him for you, and in exchange, grant CIA drones access to Pakistan’s airspace so the U.S. could hunt down its own enemies, like al-Qaeda.


In June 2004, the deal was sealed when Muhammad and several others were killed in South Waziristan during a missile attack.


Pakistan’s military claimed responsibility for the deaths. But Mark Mazetti of The New York Times has reported that claim was a lie. The missile was fired from a Predator drone—the first time a U.S. unmanned aircraft had been allowed to conduct a “targeted killing” inside the south Asian country.


Since then, the CIA has carried out hundreds of drone strikes, which have killed thousands of people inside Pakistan—turning the nation into a “laboratory for the targeted killing operations that have come to define a new American way of fighting, blurring the line between soldiers and spies and short-circuiting the normal mechanisms by which the United States as a nation goes to war,” according to the Mazzetti, author of The Way of the Knife: The C.I.A., a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood (by Mark Mazzetti, New York Times)

Ex-Fighter for Taliban Dies in Strike in Pakistan (by David Rohde and Mohammed Khan, New York Times)

New U.S. Counterterrorism Playbook to Exclude Pakistan from Drone “Kill” Rules (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)              

CIA Increases Drone Killings of Pakistanis Who “Might be Militants” (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)                   

U.S. Attacks in Pakistan Reach Record Levels (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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