Pakistan

DRONE WATCH: Drone Attacks Will Continue

Yesterday, the government of Pakistan once again expressed its opposition to U.S. drone attacks on its territory as being against international law. This morning, speaking in neighboring India, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta responded:

"Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is delivering a strong defense of the U.S. use of drones to kill insurgents in Pakistan, telling an audience next door in India on Wednesday that America has made it clear to Islamabad it will continue to target al-Qaida leaders in that country."

DRONE WATCH: Pakistan Protests Drone Strikes

Following three U.S. drone strikes in the past three days, the government of Pakistan is not happy, and it has made it officially known.

"Pakistan's foreign ministry summoned Washington's deputy ambassador to Islamabad, Richard Hoagland, to "officially convey the government's serious concern regarding drone attacks in Pakistani territory". A statement repeated the stance that drone strikes were "unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.""

Meanwhile, U.S. officials claim to have confirmed that Monday’s strike killed the #2 leader of Al Qaeda, known as Abu Yahya al-Libi, along with 15 other people. News reports say that

"Abu Yahya was among al Qaeda's most experienced and versatile leaders - operational trainer and Central Shura head - and played a critical role in the group's planning against the West, providing oversight of the external operations efforts," one official said."

DRONE WATCH: Drone Blitz in Pakistan

Fifteen dead in Pakistan on Monday:

The third US drone strike in as many days in Pakistan has raised the three-day death toll in the aerial attacks to at least 27, according to Pakistani intelligence officials. Monday's strike in the Hesokhel village of North Waziristan's tribal areas, was said to have targeted a hideout for fighters, officials said. The latest strike, which officials said had killed 15 people, was the seventh in a span of less than two weeks.

At least 10 die in Sunday Pakistan strike:

A US drone strike in Pakistan's frontier tribal areas has killed 10 suspected fighters, according to Pakistani officials. Sunday's strike was the sixth such attack in two weeks, despite ongoing demands by Islamabad for aerial strikes on its territory to stop.

Pakistani intelligence officials said four missiles were fired at the village of Mana Raghzai in South Waziristan near the border with neighbouring Afghanistan. The suspected fighters had gathered to offer condolences to the brother of a commander killed in another drone attack one day earlier.The brother was among those who died in the Sunday morning attack.

DRONE WATCH: Death From Above

Drone Watch. Image by Kurt Lightner for Sojourners.

Drone Watch. Image by Kurt Lightner for Sojourners.

Last month, White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan acknowledged in a public speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center that the United States was using armed unmanned drones to kill alleged militants.

Brennan’s acknowledgement was the only “new” news. 

Beginning in earnest under President George W. Bush and dramatically escalating under President Barack Obama, the United States is now using drones in four countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia), and has used them in two others (Iraq and Libya). Going by the names Reaper and Predator, firing missiles named Hellfire, the drones are responsible for thousands of deaths, including hundreds of women and children.

Why drones?

There are three major reasons opponents of the unmanned death planes usually give. First, in fighting against terrorist and insurgent organizations, the United States has adopted a kill — not capture — strategy. With a “kill list” of targets, the attacks aim at known or suspected leaders.

Second, the attacks can be carried out with no danger to American troops. Remotely guided from distant locations, drones are a way of carrying out risk-free military operations. Third, with the attacks increasingly under the control of the CIA rather than the military, they can be conducted with a high degree of secrecy. Whom the drones targeted and killed, and how many civilians may have also been killed, is free of scrutiny.

Warrior in Chief

Peter Bergen, a director of the New America Foundation, writes: “The president who won the Nobel Peace Prize less than nine months after his inauguration has turned out to be one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades.”

And he adds up the evidence of the past four years:

"Mr. Obama decimated Al Qaeda’s leadership. He overthrew the Libyan dictator. He ramped up drone attacks in Pakistan, waged effective covert wars in Yemen and Somalia and authorized a threefold increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan. He became the first president to authorize the assassination of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and played an operational role in Al Qaeda, and was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen. And, of course, Mr. Obama ordered and oversaw the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden."

These actions, allegedly against the “threat of terrorism,” are reminiscent of the so-called Reagan Doctrine against the “threat of communism” in the early-to-mid 1980s.  We’re still paying the price for the use of covert operations to attack insurgents, while supporting repressive and corrupt governments in that era. The Mujaheddin who were armed and trained to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan are now the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighting the U.S. occupation.  The price of the last four years is yet to be seen, but history suggests it will be substantial.

 

Homeless Veteran to President Obama: "Why Are We Sending Money to Pakistan?"

During the first-ever all-virtual interview conducted by Americans via Google+'s "hangout" group video chat feature, a young, homeless veteran in Boston asked President Obama why the United States still gives money to countries such as Pakistan, that are known to fund terrorism — especially when there are so many veterans living on the streets after returning from the war. The session was broadcast live via YouTube.

Watch the video of their conversation inside the blog...

 

Return of the Drones

An AUV, image via http://bit.ly/AitjlI

An AUV, image via http://bit.ly/AitjlI

Since mid-November, the CIA had not launched a drone attack against Pakistan. On Sunday, the New York Times front page prominently featured a story headlined Lull in Strikes by U.S. Drones Aids Militants.

Quoting an array of administration officials, diplomats, intelligence analysts, and one “American government official with decades of experience in Pakistan;” the picture painted was one of a bolder al Qaeda, increased attacks on Pakistani security, and threatened strikes against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It was a “sky is falling” account of the dire effects of no drones.

In my more cynical moments, I think such stories, almost entirely from anonymous sources, are a not-so-subtle way of applying political pressure.  It’s one of the ways media and politics interact in Washington. And, sure enough, yesterday, the attacks resumed. Reuters reported that “missiles hit a home on the outskirts of the town of Miranshah in North Waziristan, killing at least four militants.” Recess is over, back to business.

Pages

Subscribe