U.S. steps up missile strikes in Pakistan’s northwest

February 16, 2009

U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan have killed more than 50 people in the past three days in what appears to be an escalation of the military campaign in the troubled region along the Afghan border, conducted largely by unmanned drone aircraft.

On Saturday, a remote-controlled US drone bombed compounds in South Waziristan, killing at least 25 people. And on Monday, another US drone struck the Kurram tribal region, killing 26. Kurram had not been targeted earlier, so in that sense it represented a broadening of the campaign, while the high death toll speaks for the intensity of the strikes.

Both attacks appeared aimed at militants loyal to Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban leader in Pakistan, the New York Times said.

The United States has now targetted Pakistan four times since President Barack Obama took office last month, ending any lingering expectations that he might reverse the course set by the previous administration in hunting al Qaeda and the Taliban holed up in the northwest region. Indeed the strikes are a reminder of Obama’s campaign promise that the United States would go after al Qaeda inside Pakistan if it was unable or unwilling to do so.

For Pakistan the strikes come at a time when it is seething over remarks by a U.S. senator who said that Predator drone aircraft that were carrying out the strikes were being flown from an air base inside Pakistan. With Pakistani newspapers latching on to Senator Diane Feinstein’s remarks at a Senate intelligence committee hearing, a weak civilian government is running for cover.

Up until now, as Danger Room blog  said, Islamabad had sort of kept up a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy on the Predator strikes which are deeply unpopular in the country.  Officials would denounce the strikes in public while also taking a sneak look at the planes’ video feeds, it said.

But it is a high risk game, and some military experts are warning that continuing  strikes on Pakistani villages would prove to be counterproductive.

Dave Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency expert, told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month that  “the current approach is having a severely destabilizing effect on Pakistan and risks spreading the conflict further, or even prompting the collapse of the Pakistani state, a scenario that would dwarf any of the problems we have yet faced in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

Or as Pakistani defence analyst  Shireen M. Mazari wrote in The News : ”Where there is no law and where the state becomes the perpetrator of extrajudicial killings – which is what the drone attack victims are in essence – the legal and moral void will continue to be filled with an ever increasing cycle of violence.”

Chilling words from both of them.

[Photos of Pakistani tribesmen holding funeral prayers for victims of missile attack and unmanned Predator plane]


Washington sent Special Forces into Pakistan last summer after intercepting a call by the Pakistani army chief referring to a notorious Taleban leader as a “strategic asset,” a new book has claimed.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/wo rld/asia/article5747696.ece

Posted by Amy | Report as abusive

Just because something is written in a book doesn’t make it true. The raid by US forces killed civilians, and stopped after Pakistan blocked supply lines.

These missile strikes are done in cooperation with the Pakistani govt, which later issues protests for domestic consumption.


Before Pakistan descends into Chaos or civil war and become a danger to the whole region, NATO should make 3 parts of Pakistan along ethnic lines and merge these parts with Iran, Afghanistan and India. This is the quickest way to end the war, save billions and save Pakistanis. Any other solution will take 10-20 years and few trillion dollars. And there is no solution to Pakistan without involving Iran and India.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

Pakistan to Seek Additional $4.5 Billion IMF Loan to fight war on terror!!! But they just signed the surrender deal with Taliban. Interesting.. Pakistan Govt is extorting from IMF, US and Taliban is extorting from civilians. How comforting!!!

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=2 0601080&sid=aCfIuEASiN3s&refer=asia

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/nyregi on/17swat.html?hp

Posted by Amy | Report as abusive

After surrendering to Taliban, Pakistan is asking for additional $4.5 Billion IMF Loan (Pakistan got a 7.6 billion IMF loan 2 months back) to fight war on terror!!! Seems like Pakistan Govt is extorting from IMF, US and Taliban is extorting from civilians. How comforting!!!

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=2 0601080&sid=aCfIuEASiN3s&refer=asia

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/nyregi on/17swat.html?hp

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/wo rld/asia/article5747696.ece

Posted by Amy | Report as abusive

Pakistan seeks additional $4.5 billion IMF loan (Pakistan got a 7.6 billion IMF loan 2 months back) to fight war-on-terror. Did they use all 7.6 billion to sign a surrender deal with Taliban or Taliban is asking them for more?

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=2 0601080&sid=aCfIuEASiN3s&refer=asia

Posted by Amy | Report as abusive

Apologies for multiple postings .:(

Posted by Amy | Report as abusive

What nato want to get out of these strikes? if the purpose of these strikes is to expand the reach of Taliban in Pakistan then congratualtion nato is doing good job. Until 2004-5 no area of Pakistan was under Taliban control, now in vast parts of Pakistan even local Pakistani’s can not go. Besides greedy Pakistani generals with nominal IQ have no murcy for Pakistani Public, they will collect their share of dollars from IMF, US and EU, will put up a fake fight with taliban and when it will get too hot they will emigrate to West, leaving Pakistanis to the mercy of Taliban.

Posted by agthagola | Report as abusive


I cant speak for Afganistan or Iran but we Indians dont want any part of pakistan to merge with India.

Please spare us, we have moved light years away in terms of menatality and aspiration. It has taken a long time for us to focus on growth and prosperity and last thing we want is extra baggage to slow us down

Posted by indian1127 | Report as abusive

@After surrendering to Taliban, Pakistan is asking for additional $4.5 Billion IMF Loan (Pakistan got a 7.6 billion IMF loan 2 months back) to fight war on terror!!! Seems like Pakistan Govt is extorting from IMF, US and Taliban is extorting from civilians. How comforting!!!
- Posted by Amy

Amy: Taliban loots supplies from US/NATO supplies from trucks. That’s the soft target and bribery plays role.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Thank God, India was partitioned and the “land of pure” was created for the radical Islamists to experiment with their dear Sharia.

I shudder to think what could have been the state of undivided India – including radicals in now Pakistan and 500 million Muslim population.

As a concerned Indian who doesn’t want any parts of Pakistan [and its radical people] merge back with India, I wish Pakistan is divided into five parts and a strict secular military govt like Turkey’s is made to rule these areas for 15 – 20 years during which the nation is built back from scratch.

Posted by Venkat | Report as abusive

Readers, please do not resort to remarks based on ethnicity and religion. That in my view is an extremist approach which we all desire to defeat in all shapes and forms.And please stick to the topic. Thanks.

Nato Strikes though successful (target wise-as I read in local papers) are attracting a lot of criticism as to the collateral damage. It has killed far more innocent people compared to the bad people. That is why more moderate people are getting against it along with the locals. It is not getting the desired results. The number of Militants killed by it are insignificant, even if they are a bit high value targets. It is not having any impact. People want peace now. America must understand this. People of Swat want peace. No matter who brings it. They are fed up. They have given their verdict. The local government had to give in. This has strenghtened the Monster now. America, unlike Bush wanted, must increase troops in Afghanistan and defeat the Monster there as well. Pakistan has sacrificed over 2000 troops in this fight.More than Natos. The WILL is there but the billions sent by America were spent on running the day to day affairs by a dafaulting govt. The Army and other paramilitary units did not get anything. America and its dozens and dozens of CIA officials in Islamabad know that. America should get serious now. It should stop sorting out countries and instead sort out their problems if it wants to police the world. Not just force will do the job, serious planning is needed as well. Help Pakistan and Afghanistan but with proper technical, operational, financial and military help. And monitor it please. This Monster (Talibans) was planted by the West/USA to defeat USSR. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the surrogate mother.West/USA as parents neglected it for a long time.They should give hundred percent now.

Posted by Sadiq | Report as abusive

I agree with David,

The best way to bring peace to this region is to divide Pakistan in to three regions. This will save Billions in aid, save thousands of lives and reign in terrorism much better as India can also get involved in keeping terrorism at bay.

The option of disintegrating Pakistan must be seriously discussed it is a moral obligation of the UN and its member countries to do so.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive

Pakistan is a militarily strong country and can easily take control of SWAT and kill all the Taliban there if Pakistan government, and more importantly, the Pakistan military so decides. This situation is SWAT is a deliberate move by Pakistan to somehow obtain sympathy from the world and deflect attention away from Mumbai terror attack by Pakistanis; and most importantly to get dollars from foolish Americans who easily believe that Pakistan is a weak state and is ready to collapse any moment if the USA does not help Pakistan.

Posted by himalayatoproom | Report as abusive

Pakistanis. Rest assured. India does not want any of your lands or any of your people. Indians have moved on and are thinking of money and progress more than religion, especially the Sharia type of old world strict laws. Seeing pictures of SWAT is distressing. In India, this type of thing would simply never happen. Blowing up schools. It is like blowing up the future of your own people; and then the Pakistani govt endorses the Sharia in that area. Just how silly can the Pakistanis be? Is this what the Pakistanis want Kashmir for, to turn it into another SWAT where the girls are killed just because they go to school to study, and courts are closed and advocates stopped to attend court on pain of death, and lady teachers are out of jobs. If such Sharia law was imposed in Kashmir, it would became hell for all Muslims in Kashmir even and I am sure they would not like it one bit. Pakistanis cannot even control properly their own areas and give a good future and life to their own people, and they just remain obsessed with having Kashmir also so that they can destroy that place also.

Posted by himalayatoproom | Report as abusive

I love the comments calling for Pakistan to be divided into 3 seperate regions.
Don’t those people realize Pakistan has nuclear weapons?

Why wouldn’t those nuclear weapons be used if Pakistan was faced with dismemberment?

The stakes are high. Imagine a civil war in nation with nuclear weapons? Imagine a nuclear armed Taliban?

Posted by John Smith | Report as abusive

Who is going to divide Pakistan ? The Indians typing on their keyboards at home or NATO, which won’t even increase troops in Afghanistan ?


Indeed blowing up schools would never happen in India, instead you blow up buildings, trains and mosques.

What the Taliban have done to the Swatis, your murderous army has already done to the Kashmiris.


@Indeed blowing up schools would never happen in India, instead you blow up buildings, trains and mosques.
- Posted by himalayatoproom

What the Taliban have done to the Swatis, your murderous army has already done to the Kashmiris.
- Posted by Aamir Ali

Aamir, now that is distraction-off the topic. Slang matches have been played several times and what has not been said is that the only party doing REAL JIHAD in essence (not twisted version) is India. Why? India takes up arms for defense purposes only. Aggressor is Pakistan-inspired terrorism, but thanks to Indian Army which will make sure that Kashmir does not become SWAT. So blame all the violence in Kashmir on Pakistan, which indeed is functioning as a Taliban there.

But we are concerned about SWAT since it is the innocents there who are suffering in the cross-fire due to the incomptency of your Pak state.

Should we come back to SWAT now?

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive


Kashmiri women have been raped by the Indian Army, Kashmiri rights have been robbed by the Indian Army, Kashmiri freedom has been crushed by the Indian Army.

Go ask a Kashmiri for confirmation.


John Smith,

I do not subscribe to the view of Pakistan’s dismemberment. In fact, no country wants that to happen. Dealing with one Pakistan is already a headache, imagine dealing with three independent and unstable provinces?

It’s sad that nukes are the only reason why people want Pakistan to exist. Unfortunately, the nukes are not protecting Pakistan; instead they are protecting the Pakistani “military-jihadi” combine.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive

Aamir Ali writes: “Kashmiri women have been raped by the Indian Army, Kashmiri rights have been robbed by the Indian Army, Kashmiri freedom has been crushed by the Indian Army.

Go ask a Kashmiri for confirmation.”

So how many million Kashmiri refugees are flooding into Pakistan? I am asking this because typically when a military does this, it is tantamount to organized genocide and refugees start pouring out as a result. If you want to know your military did that in East Pakistan and millions of refugees poured into India as a result in 1971.

The Indian military had to take brutal steps because your insurgents (most of whom are not Kashmiris, but Pashtuns and army regulars in disguise) attack them and hide into the crowd. They know well that the military will get frustrated and start acting blindly. This is a calculated move to frustrate the military and then cry for human rights violation when they retaliate. This is a standard tactic used in many places. I am sure rapes have happened whenever armed men are around. I do not claim the Indian military to be made of saints.

In fact in the Indian side of Kashmir there was an election for state assembly where a high percentage of voters showed up. Omar Abdullah was sworn in. You will call him an Indian puppet. So be it. In fact after the US military operations came too close to your home, operations by your jihadi groups have subsided considerably inside Indian controlled Kashmir. There was even talks of reducing troops there. But then 26/11 happened and everything changed.

Indian military is present in large size inside Kashmir because of two reasons: It is a border state with a hostile neighbor and there is serious insurgency sponsored by the entire Pakistani establishment and jihadi groups.

Kashmir issue can be disputed and resolved diplomatically. But your country wants to show its might every time and unfortunately it forgets that it is dealing with a much larger country. When you learn this truth, then Kashmir will be at peace, whether it is part of India or not.

Remember that when you point one finger at us, there are three other fingers pointing at you.


Kyrgystan has voted not to allow US to use its bases for its war on terror.

It would be prudent for India to step in and offer bases from Kashmir valley that is under its control for US efforts. Even the drones should be able to fly from there. Better yet, the US should set up bases inside both Indian and Pakistani occupied Kashmir.

This will kill several birds in one stone. The US can get its supplies through India. All the Jihadi machinery inside Kashmir will shut down. And any time there is a terrorist attack inside India that targets Americans, missiles should be launched to knock out those illegal training centers inside Pakistan. India should make that deal with the US to allow them to use India for its operations.

And no one will dare raise the Nuclear threat since the US will be doing the job. They will see a very different Kashmir free of violence. At the end of it, it should be possible to withdraw the military from both India and Pakistan from Kashmir and a plebiscite can be held for all Kashmiris. There will be no influence from the Mullah and Mujahideens from Pakistan on the results. If they choose a Taliban infested Pakistan, it is their choice. If they choose to be independent, it would have been done under the supervision of the US. Pakistan will not dare run over it again. And it would serve as a buffer state between Pakistan and India in the future.

A lot of good will come out of this that will satisfy all parties. Indians should be fair and give a chance to the Kashmiris to decide for themselves. That part of the promise has never been fulfilled.


Mauryan: There is only one thing on which Indian politicians agree upon, i.e.., handling Kashmir with current policy–Kashmir is part of India.. It is engraved in stone that Kashmir will remain part of India and there are just reasons for that. Every talk/deal starts beyond that. India is not doing the wrong thing and is fair—following international laws.Your suggested experiments endanger India’s National security and the safety of Kashmiris. Also have you forgotten the declared agenda of terrorists: to spread Islam all over India?

Pakistan is unstable and unsafe for Kashmiris. Look at the condition of Kashmiris in Azad Kashmir, and who rules that and what Pakis have done since they have occupied it. This tells how well Kashmiris if they chose to be with Pakistan (it is India’s duty). So you assume that terrroists will turn Gandhian. They will not stop here since their declared agenda is to have Islam all over India (do you know this slogan “lad ke liya Pakistan husk e lenge Hindustan”—it is not funny). You think Pakistan will stop monkey play. Plus terrorists are not signing the deal of peace here. The educated Kashmiris in POK (mostly abroad) all envy Indian Kashmir and believe in Indian political system. How can you throw them to wolves (words of Frontier Gandhi proven right by pakistan).demography has been changed at gunpoint- so explain your idea to Kashmiri Pundits and to my friend who flleed Srinagar after losing mother/brother/father permanently mentally disabled by terrorists. Kashmiris are very different from Pakistanis, despite being Muslims—you must know that. If Kashmir is not part of India, we suffer severe geo-political disadvantage over Pakistan/China.

So drop this idea. We do not want another Nehru type blunder. A degree of autonomy can be thought of if all pieces fall in place, but Kashmir is part of India and Kashmiris are safe with India PERIOD. Punjab was divided into 2, so can Kashmir be. India is not expansionist but we do not invite someone to screw us up.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

@It would be prudent for India to step in and offer bases from Kashmir valley that is under its control for US efforts. Even the drones should be able to fly from there. Better yet, the US should set up bases inside both Indian and Pakistani occupied Kashmir.
- Posted by Mauryan

Mauryan: Very bad idea. India must not let its territory be used for so-called war on terror. India is not getting into this. Our interests lie on this side of the border. you are inviting Taliban in Kashmir and giving a valid reason to terrorists to strike against India. Nothing good will come out, but India will get more terrorism-Kashmir will turn into Swat. Let pakistan decide about POK.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive


The claim of “millions of East Pakisanis” fleeing to India to escape Pakistani genocide, are war propaganda that was meant to justify an Indian invasion of east Pakistan. That is also why India trained the Mukti Bahini and sent them into East Pakistan to create chaos.

The Indian Army has killed not only innocent Kashmiris, but raped their women and eliminated Kashmiris leaders. That is why the army is hated in Occupied Kashmir and regular protests erupt against it and India. You won’t find such hatred of the army or state in Azad Kashmir. The reason is because Kashmiris feel safe there and are not being victimized by the state.

The elections you hold in Kashmir are frequently rig and lead to the same Indian puppets always in rule.


I think Aamir is absolutely right. Pakistan is a peaceful country, with absolutely no intestions of harming anybody or snatching land from anybody. What i dont understand if why India is hell-bent on destroying muslims. First they took Kashmir. Then they took bangladesh(and took when we were granting independence to them) and killed all the muslims there(now only hindu indians live there, disguising themselves as bangladesh muslims). Infact as regards the Azad kashmir, its people themselves fought and gained their independence, and no, we did not dissolve them into our country, but are just helping them out until all of kashmir is free and we can then give them their own independent country. India has always been attacking our country, all the attacks carried out by so-called puktoons and balochies are actually disguised indian spies, and we have no hand in them, and still i don’t understand why they would attack as peaceful a nation as ours. Anything wrong that happens in Pakistan is due to India. All the murders, rapes , kidnapping done in Pakistan are by Indians. All the attacks being carried out inside Pakistan are by Indians. Only Hindus can think of voilence, not muslims, and it is them, disguised as muslims attacking everywhere around the world.

Posted by Abdul Rashid | Report as abusive

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