Pakistan

DRONE WATCH: Four Killed in Pakistan Attack

 

On Sunday evening, the first U.S. drone attack in nearly a month killed at least four people in Pakistan. The attack took place in Datta Khel town, 22 miles west of Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan region. According to Agence France-Presse:

Six US drones flew over the area when one of them fired two missiles at a compound in the Manzarkhel area of the town. "The drones kept hovering at the compound for a while and then one drone fired two missiles at the time of sunset," a local security official said. "At least four militants were killed in the strike," said the official.

 

DRONE WATCH: Drone Killings in Pakistan

After years of secrecy, the leaks of classified information on the drone killing program in Pakistan have turned into a torrent. Today, it was the McClatchy Newspapers, running two stories by national security and intelligence reporter Jonathan S. Landay.

The first examines in depth intelligence reports that covered most of the drone strikes in 2006-2008 and 2010-2011. Reviewing the killings covered in these reports, Landay concludes that:

“Contrary to assurances it has deployed U.S. drones only against known senior leaders of al Qaida and allied groups, the Obama administration has targeted and killed hundreds of suspected lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and unidentified “other” militants in scores of strikes in Pakistan’s rugged tribal area, classified U.S. intelligence reports show.

The second, apparently using some of the same reports, reveals the history and extent of cooperation between the CIA and Pakistani intelligence. While Pakistan was aiding the U.S against al Qaida, CIA drones were aiding the Pakistani military against the Taliban.

“Even as its civilian leaders publicly decried U.S. drone attacks as breaches of sovereignty and international law, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency secretly worked for years with the CIA on strikes that killed Pakistani insurgent leaders and scores of suspected lower-level fighters, according to classified U.S. intelligence reports. Dozens of civilians also reportedly died in the strikes in the semi-autonomous tribal region of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan that is a stronghold of al Qaida, Afghan militants, other foreign jihadists and a tangle of violent Pakistani Islamist groups.”

Both stories are long, both are well worth reading. Taken together, they reveal more secret details of the drone killing program.

DRONE WATCH: A Secret Deal on Drones

How did the drone assassination program begin? In a front page feature Sunday, The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti offered an answer. In June 2004, a Pakistani Taliban leader, Nek Muhammad , was killed by a drone strike in the South Waziristan tribal area. The killing, writes Mazzetti, was the result of a secret deal between the CIA and Pakistani intelligence officials.

“Mr. Muhammad and his followers had been killed by the C.I.A., the first time it had deployed a Predator drone in Pakistan to carry out a “targeted killing.” The target was not a top operative of Al Qaeda, but a Pakistani ally of the Taliban who led a tribal rebellion and was marked by Pakistan as an enemy of the state. In a secret deal, the C.I.A. had agreed to kill him in exchange for access to airspace it had long sought so it could use drones to hunt down its own enemies.

“That back-room bargain, described in detail for the first time in interviews with more than a dozen officials in Pakistan and the United States, is critical to understanding the origins of a covert drone war that began under the Bush administration, was embraced and expanded by President Obama, and is now the subject of fierce debate. The deal, a month after a blistering internal report about abuses in the C.I.A.’s network of secret prisons, paved the way for the C.I.A. to change its focus from capturing terrorists to killing them, and helped transform an agency that began as a cold war espionage service into a paramilitary organization.

“The C.I.A. has since conducted hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed thousands of people, Pakistanis and Arabs, militants and civilians alike. While it was not the first country where the United States used drones, it became the laboratory for the targeted killing operations that have come to define a new American way of fighting, blurring the line between soldiers and spies and short-circuiting the normal mechanisms by which the United States as a nation goes to war.”

According to the Associated Press of Pakistan, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Office responded that “the story is baseless and a part of the propaganda to create confusion about the clear position of Pakistan on this matter.”  

DRONE WATCH: Drone War Visualization

With data from the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, a team of developers has created a visualization of every drone strike in Pakistan since 2004. The interactive timeline shows how the campaign built over time, and illustrates the number of people killed. According to the Bureau:

“The project, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, aims to capture the scale and human cost of the drone war in Pakistan through its visual representation of the CIA’s covert Pakistan drone war from the first event in 2004 to the latest strike.”

DRONE WATCH: Four Killed in Pakistan

Four people were killed in a drone attack on a vehicle in Pakistan yesterday. According to The New York Times,

"The officials said missiles fired late Thursday night from a drone operated by the Central Intelligence Agency hit a moving vehicle in Datta Khel Bazar in the North Waziristan tribal region, which is a redoubt of local and foreign militants. “Four men inside the vehicle were killed,” a tribal official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The nationality of those killed was not immediately clear. The vehicle exploded after it was hit by two missiles, leaving the bodies charred and beyond recognition.”

This is the first reported attack in nearly two weeks.

 

DRONE WATCH: A Violation of Sovereignty

Following a three-day visit to Pakistan, Ben Emmerson QC, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, warned that continuing U.S. drone strikes are a violation of  that country’s sovereignty. According to the Guardian, Emmerson said,

"The position of the government of Pakistan is quite clear. It does not consent to the use of drones by the United States on its territory and it considers this to be a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"As a matter of international law the US drone campaign in Pakistan is therefore being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate government of the state. It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.

"Pakistan has also been quite clear that it considers the drone campaign to be counter-productive and to be radicalizing a whole new generation, and thereby perpetuating the problem of terrorism in the region.”

 

DRONE WATCH: Drone Strike in Pakistan

The first reported drone strike in nearly a month is said to have happened Sunday morning in the North Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan. According to The New York Times:

“Two people suspected of being militants were killed Sunday morning in the volatile North Waziristan tribal region by what Pakistani and Taliban officials said was a drone strike. … Two Pakistani officials, one in Peshawar and another in the tribal belt, said that missiles fired from a drone operated by the C.I.A. hit the two people in the village of Degan, about 20 miles from Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan.”

The Long War Journal added:

 

“The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired two missiles at a pair of "militants" as they were riding horses in the village of Degan in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. The two militants and their horses are reported to have been killed.”

 

DRONE WATCH: Drone Strike in Pakistan

The day after the hearing on John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA, U.S. drones were back in action over Pakistan. An attack on Friday in the border tribal region killed seven suspected militants. NBC News reports:

“Seven people were killed and six others injured in a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal region on Friday evening, Pakistani security officials said. The officials and tribal sources said the drone fired six missiles and pounded two separate mud-built houses in the Babar area of the Ladha subdivision in the South Waziristan tribal region.”

Other reports with different details nclude DAWN, Al Jazeera, and the Associated Press.

DRONE WATCH: The CIA Exemption

Several months ago, the Washington Post reported that presidential counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was developing a “playbook” of rules for drone attacks:

“The “playbook,” as Brennan calls it, will lay out the administration’s evolving procedures for the targeted killings that have come to define its fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates. It will cover the selection and approval of targets from the “disposition matrix,” the designation of who should pull the trigger when a killing is warranted, and the legal authorities the administration thinks sanction its actions in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond.”

On Sunday, the Post followed with a report that the playbook was nearing completion, and would provide clear rules. 

“In Yemen, officials said, strikes have been permitted only in cases in which intelligence indicates a specific threat to Americans. That could include “individuals who are personally involved in trying to kill Americans,” a senior administration official said, or “intelligence that ... [for example] a truck has been configured in order to go after our embassy in Sanaa.

“The playbook has adopted that tighter standard and imposes other more stringent rules. Among them are requirements for White House approval of drone strikes and the involvement of multiple agencies — including the State Department — in nominating new names for kill lists.”

But there is one exception to the new rules. The CIA drone program in Pakistan gets an exemption for at least a year.  That exemption is described as “a compromise that allowed officials to move forward with other parts of the playbook.” The disputed point that apparently led to it was the CIA’s use of so-called “signature strikes,” attacks based on behavior seen as suspicious rather than in specific identified targets.

It also appears that the coming withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan will lead to more and more drone attacks. The Post quotes a former official involved in the playbook, “There’s a sense that you put the pedal to the metal now…”

 

DRONE WATCH: What We Know … And What We Don’t Know

For a number of months, I’ve reported and commented on news of drone strikes, the drone program, and legal and political challenges to it. But with the administration’s refusal to officially acknowledge the program, there’s a a lot we don’t know. Cora Currier at Pro Publica has an informative summary of what we know and what we don’t know about drone strikes. 

Pages

Subscribe