WASHINGTON, Mar. 30th (AFP) - The Pentagon hopes "within a year" to deliver around a dozen unarmed drone aircraft to Pakistan to aid its fight against Islamic extremism, a US senior military official said Monday.
"I would like to think that we would get them there within a year, but quantity and so forth, I think, will depend on what are the right ones, and how many make sense for the fight that they're in," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official told reporters that while the United States is looking at sending about a dozen aircraft to Islamabad, the actual number of drone aircraft "could be more or less, depending on the need."
"What we are trying to do is get with them to be able to articulate the requirements of what they need," the official said.
Efforts are underway by US officials to "match the right equipment to the requirements. That's what we are trying to work them through."
Pakistan previously has also urged Washington to outfit its military with armed aerial vehicles like the Predator and Reaper.
US drone strikes against Al-Qaeda and Taliban figures in Pakistan have fueled anti-American sentiment because of civilian casualties, and drawn public condemnation from the government in Islamabad.
The United States has carried out nearly 100 attacks with unmanned drones in Pakistan since August 2008, killing more than 830 people. Figures range widely on how many civilians have been killed.
The unnamed official said Washington could supply around a dozen smaller, unarmed Shadow drones to Islamabad, to help with their surveillance and reconnaissance activities.
"We looked at Shadows, we looked at ScanEagles," among other drones, the official said. "Shadow drones may in fact be the right platform at the end of the day."
Shadow drones -- smaller than the armed Predator and Reaper aircraft -- are about 11 feet (three meters) long and have a wing-span of 14-feet (4.3 meters) with sensors and cameras feeding video images back to operators on the ground.
Pakistan's military already has some drones of its own production which it uses for surveillance, but which are less sophisticated than those manufactured by the United States.