Another chilling yet familiar headline crossed our eyeballs a few days ago: a drone strike in tribal Pakistan, up to nine dead, including two Al Qaeda senior officials. The Pakistani government claimed it was the U.S., and no one had any reason to believe otherwise. Until today. Now the Obama Administration is disavowing any connection to the strikes, according to reports obtained by the New York Times. So who did?
The U.S.'s best guess is that it was Pakistan, who, ironically had previously taken credit for drone strikes conducted by the U.S. Now, if the Obama Administration is to be believed, they are trying the reverse lie, perhaps to keep their hands clean of a drone strike that would be politically unpopular.
“They were not ours,” said an American official with knowledge of the program, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the drone program’s secrecy. “We haven’t had any kinetic activity since January.”
This issue brings out the difficulty in the U.S. being so secretive about the drone program: if the Obama Administration isn't upfront about what they are doing, it makes it difficult to deny things they aren't doing. That said, while the U.S. has denied the general existence of the drone program, they rarely discuss specific drone strikes, and the fact that a few officials bothered to speak up on this one indicates that they are likely telling the truth. After all, the U.S. drone program may not be popular, but it is public knowledge by now. If they were lying, they would unnecessarily anger the Pakistani government (which can't be thrilled by the denial, but couldn't be too angry if the U.S. is right) with little political gain.