Implications of the drone war By Khalid Aziz - Friday 29th April 2011

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THE recent interaction between senior Pakistani and US officials shows a hardening of attitudes on both sides. The Pakistani prime minister and army chief Gen Kayani have criticised the US for continuing to target Pakistani territory and killing Pakistani citizens through drone strikes.
On the other hand, the top US military and political leadership fault the Pakistanis for supporting the Haqqani network in North Waziristan and the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar.
The chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff Adm Mullen, a staunch friend of Pakistan and perhaps on his last visit to the country prior to his retirement in June, departed from normal protocol and criticised the ISI for continuing to maintain links with the Haqqani group and the Taliban who killed American troops in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Pakistanis feel that the US drone strategy compromises its sovereignty and enrages militants who then seek revenge by attacking the Pakistani military and civilians — the former being considered an enemy for its support to the US. It is evident that our relations with the US are at their lowest ebb.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly recently passed a resolution against the drone attacks in Fata. Lately, Imran Khan successfully blocked for two days the supply route to US forces in Afghanistan through citizen action. A few weeks ago, the Jamaat-i-Islami and the JUI-F, the two main religious parties, also protested against the drone attacks. A national consensus seems to be emerging against these attacks.
What are the real issues involved here? It may be noted that the use of force in any situation is a statement. The deployment of weapons and the method of delivery are consequential and terminal. For instance, under the Indian counter-insurgency doctrine the use of general area weapons characterised by artillery and air force is prohibited. In our case, both are weapons of choice.
Why is it that while more than 300 various types of insurgencies in India go on, in our case only one in Fata is enough to devour the state? Is this a consequence of our counter-insurgency strategy? I believe so.
The US drone strategy can thus be seen as a form of communication to Pakistan minus the rhetoric. The selection of a target and the means of acquisition indicate the nature of the relationship on one hand and show the long-term intent of the US in this country on the other.
One of the main arguments against drone attacks is that they compromise Pakistan’s sovereignty and could be construed as a coded act of war. Yet a strong counter argument from the US is that if Pakistan has sovereignty in Fata, then it should prove it by ensuring the functioning of the state’s writ in the territory and eradicate safe havens; if Pakistan cannot administer its own territory then one cannot blame others if they strike the terrorists before they endanger the US.
Secondly, the drone attack conundrum has clearly shown that had Fata been made an integral part of Pakistan by being brought into the mainstream, it is possible that it may not have been targeted by drones. Is there thus a convergence between drone operations and indirectly administered territories defined under Article 246 of the constitution?
There are three main reasons why the use of drones as weapons of choice cannot be condoned. Firstly, the use of this weapon system kills many innocent persons and is the main reason why there is so much anger against the US; an important connected issue is that the death of innocent people leads to revenge-seeking. Since those seeking vengeance cannot approach a US target, they either go to Afghanistan to wreak revenge or become suicide bombers.
Drones thus act as recruiters for militancy. It could spur others to enter Europe or the US and undertake terrorist activities.
Thus while the drones may take out some militants, do they not fan war at the same time?
The increase in the effectiveness of drones in eliminating wanted militants is an indirect indicator of another security threat facing Pakistani intelligence agencies. The drones cannot be effective unless they have human intelligence (HUMINT).
It is thus clear that there are teams on the ground providing intelligence to the controllers of the drones. Apparently, Raymond Davis was involved in the creation of such an intelligence team in southern Punjab to deal with the Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jamaatud Dawa when his cover was blown.
Clearly, the demand of the Pakistan military for the withdrawal of 324 US personnel is thus linked to the desire to limit US independent intelligence operations in Pakistan. Since 2004 there have been 236 drone attacks until April 19; however; 95.7% of the attacks have occurred since 2008.
The distribution of the 236 drone attacks over targets provides the following pattern; 70 strikes have been against Maulvi Gul Bahadur’s group in North Waziristan; 56 have been against the Haqqani group; 35 have been against the Al Iraqi group, an Al Qaeda offshoot in North Waziristan; 30 against Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan, and 29 against Waliur Rehman Mehsud in South Waziristan. The remaining were targeted against other splinter groups.
The pattern of strike shows that although the US and Pakistan remain allies, the US attacks those militants who are supportive of Pakistan. It means that the US has decided to have a say in how the Pakistan military manages security policies in Fata and Afghanistan.
It is obvious that as Pakistan attempts to gain greater control over foreign intelligence operations the drone option will be curtailed and the US emphasis will shift to deployment of other means of violence. Clearly, US-Pakistan relations need revisiting.
The writer is chairman of the Regional Institute of Policy Research in Peshawar.

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