CIA's controversial program of using missile strikes from unmanned
aerial vehicles to find and kill terrorists in Pakistan is getting an upgrade
The White House has asked the CIA to expand its program, to coincide
with the 30,000 additional U.S. troops that will go to Afghanistan.
However, the use of drone strikes in Pakistan has drawn sharp criticism
there and in the U.S. Critics worry that the program kills too many
civilians, antagonizes an increasingly anti-American population, and
strains the already tense diplomatic relationship with Pakistan. That
President Obama has boosted the program despite this has inflamed
critics and renewed fears that drones are doing more harm than good.
- Inflames Militants The Majlis's Gregg Carlstrom worries,
"[E]ven if drone strikes might be successful
at decapitating the Taliban leadership, this is the kind of reductive
thinking that leads to tactical successes and strategic failures. A
drone campaign in Baluchistan would be another huge infringement upon
Pakistani sovereignty; it would inevitably kill civilians and stoke
anti-American anger in Pakistan. It also risks linking Baluchistan's
nationalist movement, a purely local grievance, with the U.S. war on
terror. That's not an outcome U.S. policymakers want."
- What About Afghan Drones? Wired's David Hambling wonders
about a new stealth drone, "the Beast of Kandahar," spotted in
Afghanistan. "Why use such a fancy, stealthy aircraft in Afghanistan?
have neither the radar to spot the plane, nor the weaponry to shoot it
down." Hambling asks why a stealth drone would be used against a
Taliban army with no radar, concluding that it isn't. "There has of
course been plenty of speculation. Much of it is focused
on the idea that while it is based in Kandahar, the Beast may be
carrying out missions outside of Afghanistan, with Iran and Pakistan
both being possible candidates. For both of those radar stealth could
be an important asset, and the beast may be carrying out
signals-intercept or other tasks (looking for traces of nuclear
- Drones and Raids in Taliban's Back Yard Afghanistan military advisor Seth Jones writes in the New York Times, "The United States and Pakistan must target Taliban leaders in
Baluchistan [a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan]. There are several ways to do it, and none requires
military forces." He explains, "The first is to conduct raids to capture Taliban leaders in
Baluchistan. [...] The second is to hit Taliban leaders with
drone strikes, as the United States and Pakistan have done so
effectively in the tribal areas."
- One Third Killed Are Civilian Foreign Policy's Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedeman caution
that about a third of those killed by drones are civilians, not
militants. "Our own data shows that if we consider just the period from
2008 until the present, the average civilian fatality rate is between
35 and 40
percent; far more than the five percent claimed by the government
official." Their study reports overall, "Based on our count of the
estimated number of militants
killed, the real total of civilian deaths since 2006 appears to be in
of 250 to 320, or between 31 and 33 percent."
- It's About Containment Spencer Ackerman concludes
from an NPR interview with CENTCOM chief General David Petraeus,
"Because this sounds very much like Petraeus acknowledging that the
cannot and will not kill every last al-Qaeda operative. What it can do,
along with its Pakistani partners — and can’t do without them — is degrade al-Qaeda-central’s safe haven and harass
it militarily when possible, so that it can’t export the extremism that
senior officials continue to see emanating from the region. There’s a
word for that: containment."
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