DRONE WATCH: Escalation in Pakistan

Since the start of the year, drone attacks in Pakistan have been escalating. In the first ten days of January, seven attacks have been reported.

Thursday morning, according to the Global News/AP:

“U.S. drone-fired missiles hit a house in Pakistan's northwest tribal region Thursday, killing five suspected militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said. It was the seventh such attack in less than two weeks.

“The recent spate of strikes has been one of the most intense in the past two years, a period in which political tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan led to a reduced number of attacks compared to 2010, when they were at their most frequent.”

Tuesday, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported:

“In twin strikes CIA drones killed at least six people, including up to two reported civilians. There were conflicting accounts of the events that night. Some sources reported there was a single strike that killed up to nine people. However multiple sources reported up to 17 missiles were fired on two close but separate targets at least 15 minutes apart. The first of the potentially coordinated attacks killed at least four in Haider Khel village shortly after midnight. …

“The Agency’s drones killed at least two people in the second strike in nearby Hesso Khel village. As many as 11 missiles were fired on a ‘two room house‘ belonging to Noor Mohammed – his fate was not reported. Villagers said there was no way to tell the identity or nationality of the ‘mutilated bodies’. Many drones were reportedly seen overhead after the strike making tribesmen panic.” 

DRONE WATCH: Just the Facts.

The secrecy of the U.S. drone program often makes it difficult to follow what is happening. News reports cite unnamed intelligence or security officials, sometimes tribal sources, usually with different information.

For example, on Sunday a large number of people were killed by drone strikes in Pakistan's South Waziristan region. The story was reported by Al Jazeera, Reuters, DAWN, Associated Press, and CNN; among others.

The strike involved “several missiles” (AP), “eight to 10 missiles” (Al Jazeera), or “four unmanned drones fired ten missiles” (DAWN).  It was aimed at “a suspected Taliban compound” (Al Jazeera), “three Taliban compounds” (Reuters), “three militant hideouts” (AP), or “three houses” (DAWN). The casualties were “sixteen killed and several others wounded” (Al Jazeera), “seventeen dead, three wounded” (CNN), “between ten and twelve dead” (Reuters), “seventeen dead” (DAWN), or “nine dead” (AP). They were “believed to be militants” (CNN), “suspected to be Taliban fighters” (Reuters), or “fighters belonging to the Punjabi Taliban” (Al Jazeera),

So, how many people were killed? Who were they? You decide.

DRONE WATCH: Senior Taliban Commander Killed


Over the last two days, multiple drone strikes in Pakistan killed at least 13 people. According to the Associated Press,

“Two U.S. drone strikes on northwest Pakistan killed a senior Taliban commander who fought American forces in Afghanistan but had a truce with the Pakistani military, intelligence officials said Thursday.

“The commander, Maulvi Nazir, was among nine people killed in a missile strike on a house in the village of Angoor Adda in the South Waziristan tribal region near the border with Afghanistan late Wednesday night, five Pakistani security officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. …

“Fighters under Nazir's command focused their attacks on American forces in neighboring Afghanistan, earning him the enmity of the U.S. But many in Pakistan's military viewed Nazir and militant chiefs like him as "good Taliban," meaning they focus attacks only on foreign forces in Afghanistan, keeping domestic peace by not attacking Pakistani targets.”

In a separate drone strike, at least four people were killed early Thursday morning near Mir Ali in the North Waziristan tribal region.

DRONE WATCH: High-Tech Killing

University of Notre Dame Law School Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell writes in Peace Policy of the “high-tech killing” made possible by drones, and the apparent violations of international law this creates.

“The arguments for drones continue to mutate as the technology advances to ever more powerful killing machines:  Predators, Reapers, and now the Avenger. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced on November 20, 2012, that the Pentagon plans to expand the use of drone attacks in Libya, Mali, and Nigeria. He said that al Qaeda has “metastasized to other parts of the global body.’’ Now the policy of targeted killing with drones is spreading to other parts of the globe.”

DRONE WATCH: Drones Lead to Hatred in Pakistan

Qanta Ahmed, Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion and Associate Professor of Medicine, State University of New York, writes in Haaretz about a recent trip to Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. She finds that hatred of the US and strengthening of the Taliban are directly linked to continuing drone attacks.

“While the drive to codify U.S. drone policy is finally gaining momentum, it may be a case of too little, too late. As long as drones remain airborne, neo-orthodox Islamist terrorists and non-violent - but extremist - anti-American ideologues gain political capital, hoarding it as fast as America loses it. As long as we allow our administration to deploy drones without accountability, Pakistani anti-Americanism is validated, the Taliban is actually strengthened, while we as Americans remain confined in an ugly reality - defined not by who we are, but by whom, how and how often, we kill.”

DRONE WATCH: Deaths in Pakistan

One of the remaining Al Qaeda leaders was killed Thursday in a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan. The Associated Press reports:

“Sheik Khalid bin Abdel Rehman al-Hussainan, who was also known as Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti, was killed when missiles slammed into a house Thursday near Mir Ali, one of the main towns in the North Waziristan tribal area, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.”

The report added that his wife and daughter were also injured, and his wife died Friday.

Reuters reports another senior leader killed on Sunday when a drone fired missiles at a house with Mohammad Ahmed Almansoor inside, in the main town in North Waziristan, near the Afghan border. Three other suspected militants were killed in the attack.

DRONE WATCH: Pakistan Developing Drones

As it continues to condemn U.S. drone attacks, it appears that Pakistan is close to manufacturing its own drones. The Guardian reports that at a major arms fair held in Karachi last week, a senior Pakistani defense official briefed allies on their progress.

"The foreign delegates were quite excited by what Pakistan has achieved," said the official, who was closely involved with organising the four-day International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (Ideas). "They were briefed about a UAV that can be armed and has the capability to carry a weapon payload."

“The official said Pakistan wanted to demonstrate to friendly countries, principally Turkey and the Gulf, that it can be self-sufficient in a technology that is revolutionising warfare and which is currently dominated by a handful of countries that do not readily share the capability.”

Weapons of Terror

Ami Vitale/Getty Images

Woman whose house burned in Hindu-Muslim violence in Pakistan.Ami Vitale/Getty Images

When the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the world was ushered into a period of weapons paranoia. The Cold War, of course, was hallmarked by the obsessive weapons one-upmanship of the United States and the Soviet Union.

Who, then, would have thought that in the 21st century, the seeming weapon of choice would not be some sort of super-nuclear missile or an ultra-deadly biological toxin, but that it would, instead, be women?

“Women are being used as weapons of terror,” Dr. Rubina Greenwood told an audience last week at a congressional briefing on the rights of minority women in Pakistan organized by the Hindu American Foundation. 

DRONE WATCH: Drone Attack in Pakistan.

DAWN reports a drone attack Wednesday in the North Waziristan region.

“At least five people were killed Wednesday when a US drone targeted a suspected militant compound about 10 kilometres from the main town in volatile North Waziristan region, intelligence sources said.

“The US drone fired three missiles in Tappi village, about 10 kilometres southeast of Miramshah, on a compound which intelligence sources said was a militant facility. Two missiles hit the house and one struck a vehicle resulting in the death of four suspected militants. A woman was also killed in the strike, sources added. The official sources also said that three cows have also been killed as the house was completely destroyed.”

CNN reported three killed, and added that two children were injured.

“The latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children, military officers said. Militants lived in the compound, but so did civilians, the officers said.”

Malala Yousafzai Recovering

Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl who was shot by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan for her activism, is recovering at a hospital in Britain. The Guardian reported this morning

“Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl flown to Britain for treatment after being shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan, has the potential to make "pretty much a full recovery", her doctors have said.

“She is able to stand with help and is writing notes, and although the bullet grazed her brain she has not shown "any deficit in terms of function", doctors at Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham said on Friday. She was "not out of the woods but is doing very well", said Dr. Dave Rosser, medical director of the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS foundation trust.”

The shooting has attracted a mass outpouring of support, both in Pakistan around the world. And Yousafzai is apparently aware of that support. According to Dr. Rosser

"She is keen that people share the details. She is also keen that I thank people for their support and their interest. She is obviously aware of the amount of support and interest this has generated around the world. She is keen to thank people for that."