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.