By Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr
A stealth US drone that crashed in Iran last week was part of a Central Intelligence Agency reconnaissance mission which involved both intelligence community and military personnel stationed in Afghanistan, two U.S. officials tell CNN. The officials said they did not believe the mission involved flying the drone directly over Iran because the reconnaissance capability of the-RQ 170 drone allows it to gather information from inside Iran while remaining on the Afghanistan side of the border. The officials also for the first time acknowledged to CNN it was an RQ-170 drone that was lost.
When the drone crashed in Iran late last week, the U.S. briefly considered all potential options for retrieving the drone or bombing the wreckage, according to a third official. But those ideas were relatively quickly discarded as impractical, the official said. There was also satellite surveillance over the site which helped confirm the location of the wreckage before the Iranians retrieved it.
All of the officials have direct knowledge of the events, but spoke on the condition of anonymity because of sensitive intelligence matters. CIA officials have declined to comment.
Indications of the intelligence community’s involvement in the drone incident emerged over the weekend when the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan issued a vaguely worded statement saying, ” "The UAV to which the Iranians are referring may be a U.S. unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week. The operators of the UAV lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status." Several coalition officials said at the time they had no direct knowledge of the incident and they were essentially ordered to put out this statement. It is significant that the statement only says “operators” of the UAV without saying which part of the military or US government might have been operating it, one coalition official said.
American officials are discounting the Iranian claim they shot the drone down and insist the crew lost flight control and the drone then entered Iranian airspace.