The Pakistani government has known about and, at times, been complicit in the highly criticized U.S. drone campaign against suspected terrorists within the Islamic nation's borders, according to recently released documents.
The revelation, unveiled through classified CIA materials obtained by the Washington Post, flies in the face of Pakistani rhetoric which for years has denounced the strikes as acts of war and crossing a "red line." The Pakistani prime minister said as recently as Wednesday after a meeting at the White House that the U.S. must end such strikes.
The U.S. has conducted roughly 350 drone strikes in Pakistan since the program began in 2004, according to numbers compiled by both the Long War Journal and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism. These have accounted for more than 3,600 deaths, roughly 1,000 of which were civilians.
The CIA memos, maps and photos unveiled by the Post indicate the intelligence agency shared this information with the Pakistani government between 2007 and 2011, when the campaign intensified. In some instances, the CIA's Counterterrorism Center specifically prepared documents to share with its Pakistani counterparts.
Yet the public face of Pakistan denies such acknowledgement, and frequently blasts the U.S. for continuing the attacks.
"We see them as a direct violation of our sovereignty. We also see them as a violation of international law," Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman told reporters in February.
Amnesty International on Tuesday said the strikes were unlawful and could amount to war crimes or extrajudicial executions.
The ambassador also denied claims that Pakistan secretly complies with the strikes while publicly condemning them.
"There is no question of quiet complicity. There is no question of 'wink and nod.' This is a parliamentary 'red line' that all our government institutions have internalized as policy," she said.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday. Sharif brought up the issue of drones with Obama, and later emphasized "the need for an end to such strikes."
The two leaders underscored the importance of continued security cooperation between the two nations. Indeed, the U.S. is forced to rely on Pakistan for its ongoing war in Afghanistan, largely for logistical purposes. Previous protests by the Pakistani government, in which they denied ground access to U.S. convoys, forced the U.S. to spend millions more on alternative transportation.
The relationship remains a complicated one. Many security experts doubt that Pakistani intelligence service ISI was completely oblivious to the presence of Osama bin Laden in a fortified mansion in Abbottabad. Media reports indicate that property was once used as an ISI safehouse.
A break in U.S. drone strikes in May 2013 also aligned with the Pakistani election. Experts in counterterrorism strikes and relations with Pakistan believed at the time this was not a coincidence.
"It's not for want of targets. There are political considerations," said Bill Roggio, editor of Long War Journal, in May. "[The strikes] are publicized, for certain. Political candidates would definitely use them."
The Washington Post reported Thursday the leaked files indicate the "explicit nature of a secret arrangement struck between the two countries." Neither the CIA nor the Pakistani government was willing to comment on the content of the leaked documents.