- US officials kept mum on where they launched the drone from
- The US no longer has any military bases in the immediate Kyrgyzstan region
- This suggests the aircraft may have flown a long distance before reaching its target
Zawahiri death: Michael Kugelman, a scholar of South Asian affairs at the Wilson Center, Washington, has said the US drone strike that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul has generated a lot of discussions in the United States. The discussions revolve around the possible role of Pakistan in the raid.
"I wouldn't overstate its role, but also would take with some grains of salt the contention that there was no role at all," the report, published in Dawn, cited Kugelman as saying.
Kugelman focused his attention on two possible forms of support: airspace and intelligence.
His speculations arise from the fact that the US officials kept mum on where they launched the drone from.
Some US media reports said the drone was possibly launched from an airbase in Kyrgyzstan. The reports claimed that the attack was launched from Ganci Airbase, a US transit facility at Manas in northern Kyrgyzstan.
According to the US Department of Defence, Ganci is a former American military base in Kyrgyzstan, near the Bishkek international airport.
It was operated by the US Air Force, which handed it over to the Kyrgyz military in June 2014.
The US no longer has any military bases in the immediate region, which suggests the aircraft may have flown a long distance before reaching its target.
"The geography doesn't lie. If this drone was launched from a US base in the Gulf, it wouldn't be able to fly over Iran. Flying over Central Asia is circuitous and hard to pull off if you're undertaking a rapid operation," Kugelman wrote.
"This leaves the Pakistani airspace as the most desirable option for intelligence support and US officials have indicated the planning and surveillance for this operation took months."
"Could it do that all alone, with no on-ground presence?" he asked, adding that if not Pakistan, "some renegade Taliban members might have supplied that information to the US".
But Kugelman does not rule out the possibility of Afghanistan's Central Asian neighbours providing that support to the US, Dawn reported.
Pakistan Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said the drone that targeted and killed Zawahiri was not operated from the country, Geo News reported.
(With inputs from IANS)
Also Read | Opinion | Did Pakistan help the US in killing Ayman al-Zawahiri?