Islamabad: The American drone that killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul was possibly launched from an airbase in Kyrgyzstan, some US media reports claimed.
The reports claimed that the attack was launched from Ganci Airbase, a US transit facility at Manas in northern Kyrgyzstan, says Dawn news.
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 national Public Radio, America’s largest radio news network, noted that US officials were not saying where they launched the drone from, “but the US no longer has any military bases in the immediate region, suggesting the aircraft may have flown a long distance before reaching its target”.
Michael Kugelman, a scholar of South Asian affairs at the Wilson Center, Washington, noted that the drone strike has generated “lots of discussion” in the US on “Pakistan’s possible role” in the raid, Dawn reported.
“I wouldn’t overstate its role, but also would take with some grains of salt the contention that there was no role at all.”
Kugelman focused his attention on two possible forms of support: airspace and intelligence. “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,” he 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.