Pakistan’s Air Force chief said he ordered the service to shoot down foreign drones in Pakistani airspace, including UAVs operated by the United States.
The order comes two weeks after up to four people were killed in an apparent U.S. drone strike on a militant compound near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.
“We will not allow anyone to violate our airspace. I have ordered PAF to shoot down drones, including those of the US, if they enter our airspace, violating the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman said on Thursday, December 7, The Times of India reported.
A Pentagon spokesperson told The Defense Post that the U.S. and Pakistan communicate on operations near the Afghanistan border, but would not say if U.S. aerial reconnaissance or strike missions would be affected.
“Due to operational security I cannot provide anything specific, but the United States and Pakistan militaries consistently communicate on counterterrorism operations near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews said.
The Defence Post also contacted NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan but has not yet received a reply.
The November 30 strike in Pakistan’s mountainous Kurram Agency targeted a compound housing militants from the Haqqani Network, an Islamist militant group supportive of the Taliban. A drone fired two missiles at the compound killing up to four people, The Tribune reported unnamed government sources as claiming.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism classified the incident as a possible U.S. strike, saying that between three and four people were killed. TBIJ says it was the fifth U.S. strike in Pakistan this year.
The CIA was responsible for all U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan until May 2016 when U.S. Special Forces carried out a strike, TBIJ says.
The Trump administration’s new Southeast Asia Strategy marked an important policy change towards Pakistan. Since the policy review, the U.S. has been pushing Pakistan’s government to adopt a tougher stance on Islamist militant groups who use the country as a base to launch attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan in turns blames Afghanistan, saying Kabul is not tough enough on militants who use Afghan territory to attack Pakistan.