Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Launching an air strike in another nation would normally be considered an act of aggression. But advocates of America’s rapidly expanding unmanned drone programme don’t see it that way.
They are arguing, as Tom Ricks writes on his blog The Best Defense over at Foreign Policy, that the campaign to kill militants with missile strikes from these unmanned aircraft, is more like police action in a tough neighbourhood than a military conflict.
These raids conducted by sinister-looking Predator or Reaper aircraft in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen – and since last month in Somalia - should not be seen as a challenge to states and their authority. Instead they are meant to supplement the power of governments that are either unable to or unwilling to fight the militants operating from their territories.
They are precise, limited, strikes aimed at taking down specific individuals, and in that sense are more like the police going after criminals, rather than a full-on military assault. Ricks writes:
U.S.- Pakistan ties are entering an even more dangerous phase, going by the language that the two sides are employing ever since a public airing of differences over covert U.S. activities in Pakistan
It’s a game of smoke and mirrors and some of it could be bluff and bluster, but there is little doubt that Pakistan and America are stuck in an unhappy relationship, attacking each other as much as the militants they joined forces against ten years ago.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
With the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, the United States and Pakistan have put behind them one of the more public rows of their up-and-down relationship. It was probably not the worst row -- remember the furore over a raid by U.S. ground troops in Angor Adda in Waziristan in 2008, itself preceded by a deluge of leaks to the U.S. media about the alleged duplicity of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in its dealings on Afghanistan.
But it was certainly one which by its very nature was guaranteed to get the most attention - an American who shot dead two Pakistanis in what he said was an act of self-defence, denied diplomatic immunity and ultimately released only after the payment of blood money. Adding to the drama were two intelligence agencies battling behind the scenes.
For more than three weeks now, there has been no U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s northwest, triggering speculation that the pause may be related to the tensions between the two countries over the arrest of an American embassy employee for murder. Washington is seeking the release of Raymond Davis, a former Special Forces soldier who killed two Pakistanis on Jan 27 during what he said was an attempted robbery in a Lahore street, arguing he is covered under diplomatic immunity.
Pakistanis, deeply resentful of the heavy U.S. involvement in the country, are refusing to hand over Davis, saying he should face trial in Pakistan as he didn’t have immunity.
Bob Woodward’s new book “Obama’s Wars” is making waves for laying bare the policy divisions and the personality clashes within the administration over the U.S. President’s Afghan policy. The author, according to the excerpts published by the New York Times and the Washington Post ahead of the book’s release next week, exposes the colliding egos of senior political and military figures in even more stark detail than Rolling Stone‘s profile of General Stanley McChrystal that cost the U.S. commander his job.
But what may turn out to be even more explosive in the theatre where America’s longest war is being waged is the revelation that the CIA is running a 3,000-strong Afghan army to carry out clandestine operations in not just Afghanistan, but more importantly over the border in Pakistan. The idea that an Afghan army is fighting al Qaeda and Taliban militants inside Pakistan is not something that Islamabad can tolerate easily. Or at least the public disclosure of it.
It could be early days yet, and the sampling may be small, but there are signs of a drop in Taliban attacks following the Pakistani crackdown on the Quetta Shura, an intelligence website says. If the assessment put out by NightWatch intelligence turns out to be true over the next few weeks, it will reinforce U.S. military officials’ long-standing position you cannot win the war in Afghanistan unless you take out the Taliban leadership in Pakistan
The United States has carried out the most intensive series of unmanned ”Predator” drone attacks inside Pakistan’s tribal areas since the covert war began, following December’s deadly raid on a CIA base just over the border in Afghanistan. Pakistani newspapers citing interior ministry data, say there were 12 missile strikes in January fired by the unmanned Predator and Reaper planes, the highest for any single month. The highest number of attacks in a month stood at six previously, which was in December 2009. There were just two strikes in January 2009, reflecting the surge in the drone campaign to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban since the Obama administration took over last year.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Last week's suicide bomb attack on a base in Afghanistan which killed seven CIA officers and a Jordanian spy is raising fears in Pakistan that it could encourage an intensified drone bombing campaign to target those who planned the assault.
Although it is too early to say for certain who ordered the attack, possibilities include the Pakistani Taliban who claimed responsibility; the Afghan Taliban who had earlier said the bomber was an Afghan army officer; the Haqqani network; al Qaeda; or a combination of different groups working together.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
One of the things U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ran into last week during her trip to Pakistan was anger over attacks by unmanned "drone" aircraft inside Pakistan and along the border with Afghanistan.
One questioner during an interaction with members of the public said the missile strikes by Predator aircraft amounted to "executions without trial" for those killed. Another asked Clinton to define terrorism and whether she considered the drone attacks to be an act of terrorim like the car bomb that ripped through Peshawar that same week killing more than 100 people.