By Carlo Muñoz - 07/06/12 05:09 PM EDT
Giving Islamabad a larger say in how the drone strikes are carried out and who ends up being targeted by those attacks was a hot topic during U.S.-Pakistan talks to reopen vital supply routes in Pakistan to American forces.
The decision only came after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a rare apology for an errant U.S. airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and prompted the closure of the supply routes last November.
“This is the maximum they have been seeking. Nothing more,” government officials with knowledge of the supply route negotiations told the Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune on Friday.
Specifically, Pakistan is asking for control over the human intelligence assets inside the country that pinpoint locations and targets for American drones, according to the official.
Granting Pakistani officials that kind of authority would essentially allow Islamabad to dictate which targets U.S. military and intelligence forces can hit inside the country.
That authority would theoretically allow Islamabad to protect suspected terror groups allegedly allied with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate from U.S. strikes, while serving up groups that threaten the country's national security.
“They know the US will never step back as they have been saying ... so the idea is that it is better to have something that suits you than losing it all,” one of the officials told the Express Tribune.
It remains unclear whether the deal to reopen Pakistani supply lines to U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan included plans to hand over more control of drone strikes to Islamabad.
However, in the run-up to the supply line deal, Pakistani officials publicly demanded an end to all U.S. drone strikes in the country as a precursor to granting access to Pakistani supply routes to U.S. forces.
In May, Pakistani lawmakers issued a list of demands that Washington would have to abide by before Islamabad would reopen the vital supply routes.
Those demands included a ban on any private security contractors from working inside Pakistan and blocked the United States from carrying out "overt or covert operations" — including U.S.-led drone strikes — within the country's borders.
That same month, Pakistani diplomats threatened to boycott NATO's annual summit in Chicago over American drone attacks, which Islamabad claimed were a blatant affront to the country's sovereignty.