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Pause in Drone strikes seen linked to US prisoner
The United States has halted drone attacks on militants along Pakistan's western border in a development analysts believe is linked to U.S. attempts to secure the release of a jailed U.S. consular employee.

After months of frequent strikes from unmanned U.S. aircraft on militant hideouts in tribal areas on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, where bloodshed has hit record levels, reports of covert strikes have gone quiet for over three weeks.

Many analysts believe Washington has stopped the attacks to avoid further inflaming anti-American fury in Pakistan just as it pressures a vulnerable Islamabad government to release Raymond Davis, a U.S. consulate employee imprisoned after shooting two Pakistanis last month during what he said was an attempted robbery.

"This in itself raises a number of questions regarding the U.S. Pakistan strategy as it struggles to balance counter terrorism ... with its public diplomacy," said Simbal Khan, an analyst with the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad.

The decision to halt a campaign that is the centerpiece of U.S. efforts to root out militants launching attacks on its soldiers in Afghanistan also raises questions, Khan said, "about how chasing after terrorist and al Qaeda targets can be suspended to save the fate of a single U.S. national."

As tempers fray over Davis, who the United States insist is shielded by diplomatic immunity, the government of President Asif Ali Zardari is loathe to risk losing billions of dollars in U.S. aid or doing permanent damage to ties with a key Western ally.

Yet neither can Pakistan afford to unleash popular fury in a case that has galvanized anti-American sentiment.

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