Escalation of Drone Use Risks Fueling Militancy and Increasing Instability in Pakistan

(12:30PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Friends, as you know I have raised the issue of strike drone use by the U.S. in Pakistan on a few occasions. I am currently working on this issue, and a few others, with Avaaz. Please find below a joint entry with my new Avaaz colleague and friend Brett Solomon. Cheers, Raj

With daily news reports suggesting that the democratically elected government of Pakistan is struggling to contain militancy within its borders, Americans and Pakistanis alike are waiting to see how the new U.S. policy, outlined in late March by President Obama, impacts the crisis.

There is a feeling that sustained U.S. and international focus is needed because the militant groups that grew so rapidly under the military government of General Musharraf are threatening the internal security of nuclear-armed Pakistan. This instability is also harming efforts to bring peace and security to bordering Afghanistan.

While President Obama’s new strategy includes many positive dimensions, ranging from its emphasis on the centrality of civil engagement to engagement with the “moderate” Taliban to adopting a regional approach to the problem, there is one policy decision that is causing considerable concern: the escalation of strike drone use in Pakistan.

Despite the fact that many counter insurgency, security and South Asia experts and Pakistani gov comments have been urging the administration to curtail the use of strike drones in the Pakistani tribal region, the Obama plan seems to include an escalation.

U.S. government officials, speaking to the media on background, have suggested that the use of drones will increase and will move beyond the tribal areas of Pakistan into other provinces. This determination has been made despite the fact that misdirected attacks from these drones have led to civilian deaths,undercut efforts to build bridges with the people of the tribal region and are destabilizing broader Pakistani society.

The drone attacks are said to be fueling instability in part because they are leading to such high civilian losses. As top U.S. counter insurgency advisor, and author of the superb book Accidental Guerilla, David Kilcullen noted on the blog Small Wars Journal, the drone attacks “…increase the number and radicalism of Pakistanis who support extremism, and thus undermine the key strategic program of building a willing and capable partner in Pakistan…”

Kilcullen believes that the drones should be used as an “absolute, and rarely invoked, last resort” but it seems that his advice, and that of many other regional experts has been, at least for now, ignored by the administration.

The decision to press on with the drone strategy is confounding, particularly when one considers the data pulled together by Amir Mir, writing for The News International (a popular Pakistani English language paper). Amir Mir noted that:

“Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. The success percentage of the US predator strikes thus comes to not more than six per cent.”

This Wednesday, President Obama will be hosting trilateral talks with Afghanistan and Pakistan. We strongly urge the President to use that opportunity to change course and, at a minimum, adopt the Kilcullen test and stop the escalation in drone use.

In the speech announcing his new Pakistan-Afghanistan plan, President Obama stated that the U.S. “will seek lasting partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan that serve the promise of a new day for their people.” Such relationships are harmed by the use of strike drones and we believe a new and better way forward should focus on development aid, political dialogue and protection of civilians.

To help make the case to President Obama we have launched an advertisement urging an end to escalation in drone use. To view it you can click here.

1 comment

Comments have been disabled.