Drone’s Phobia & Obama’s Strategy
Posted on December 22nd, 2009

I A Khanzada

President Barack Obama has finally announced his long-awaited new US strategy on Afghanistan after extensive consultations with his advisers: some wanted to increase 30,000 additional troops so that they could concentrate their effort in the south and southeast, in the provinces that border Pakistan, while others advocated at concentrating on the strongholds from where the terrorists are launching their attacks including areas in Quetta, Pakistan. While spelling out the new US Strategy for AfPak on December 2, 2009, President Obama said ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ The Americans have become more vocal in warning Pakistan leaders that if they donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t act the United States will, including with more attacks by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Despite strong resistance from PakistanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s leadership, ObamaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s new policy envisaged the “broadening of the target area” to include “a major insurgent sanctuary in and around the city of Quetta” for drone attacks. Jane Mayer of The New Yorker magazine revealed in October edition, that the number of US predator drone strikes on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border by the C.I.A., has risen dramatically under President Obama. Mayer cited a new study by the New America Foundation that claims 82 U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, killing nearly 1,000 innocent people since 2006. (However, according to Wikipedia, a total of 65 attacks have been conducted till December 10, 2009).

Nevertheless, US drone strikes in the tribal areas and prospective attacks on Balochistan will bring about dire implications for Pakistan and the US itself. The drone attacks in Balochistan will certainly restrict PakistanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s efforts in fighting the war on terror with the likelihood of risking more public resentment when the people of Balochistan will be bombed by the US predators. At this critical stage, when Pakistan has been facing a spate of suicide attacks, the drone strikes are triggering fear amongst the general public. Yet President Barack Obama is being urged to visit Pakistan and tell the public their fears of domination are unfounded. This will force the moderate element to join the ranks of radicals to avenge the deaths of their dear ones killed in the drone attacks. The drone attacks are a violation of Pakistan sovereignty, counter productive and not helpful in the effort to win hearts and minds of people.

Theoretically, the US is saying that since ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-our troops are located just the opposite side of the border with Quetta, they are coming under attack thatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s why we need to target QuettaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. After reinforcing troop strength in Afghanistan, a massive military operation is expected to follow during mid-July, 2010. This military campaign will be duly supported by unmanned drones attacks on high profile al Qaeda targets allegedly hiding in Quetta and its surroundings. In order to pave the ground for such a campaign, an influential American newspaper, The New York Times alleged in an editorial, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Pakistan and the WarƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚, that PakistanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s leaders are continuing to see the Taliban as an ally and long-term proxy to limit IndiaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s influence in Afghanistan. In the very recent, US President Barack Obama has shown his skepticism about PakistanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s willingness to attack Taliban groups allegedly operating out of Quetta, who are involved in attacks across the border inside Afghanistan. Pakistan strongly refutes the US intelligence claims about the presence of ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Quetta ShuraƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ and al Qaeda leadership, terming it baseless and far from reality.

Drone attacks in the tribal areas have drawn a strong reaction throughout in Pakistan. Attacking militants on the soil of a longtime US ally, is strongly resented because the drones kill hundreds of innocent civilians alongwith few militants, causing widespread resentment against the Americans. The real reason is to completely destabilize Pakistan, create an environment conducive to demand IAEA inspection, dismantle the Pakistani nuclear assets, cutting down the Pakistan army, finishing off the ISI and dismembering the country. The time has come to re-assess the new AfPak strategy and create space to Chalk out various options. It is beyond doubt that as the new strategy unfolds, Pakistan will be in the middle of things to come. Acting upon US think tank Stephen CohenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s advice (he concluded that Pakistan is a bigger and far more serious problem than Afghanistan and has suggested that the present AfPak should be changed to PakPak strategy), Obama has already declared that US cannot succeed in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s support. AmericaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s declaration of Pakistan as strategic partner will take US out of the failures in Afghanistan and shifting the blame on Pakistan for its inability to ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-do moreƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. The US does not wish to see any strong Muslim state so it is targeting Pakistan. Pakistan is confronting a dual threat of terrorism; (a) from within, in the form of Jihadi wrath and (b) from outside, i.e., US and its strategic partner IndiaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s design of destabilizing Pakistan. The process of creating anarchy-like situation is already unfolded, through the growing acts of suicide attacks spreading across Pakistan and becoming ever more lethal (Moon Market Lahore, Parade lane shooting spree, Peepal Mandi market Peshawar, etc). Indian and US arms are being freely used by the forces bent to destabilize Pakistan. The US initiative to bring India into the loop to fight against the Taliban insurgency, has surprised Pakistan, especially when solid proofs of Indian involvement in Balochistan has been established. It should be clear that Pakistani forces, its sensitive agencies especially the ISI and civil society are prime targets.

Despite ObamaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s tilt towards troops surge, Islamabad appreciates that the use of force is not a permanent solution, it only disperses the militants soon to regroup. Consequently, Pakistan wants to strike peace deals with the softer element of talibans. As in the past, though, while this will restore order inside Pakistan, it will redirect the militants to Afghanistan. This good for Pakistan, but it could have dire consequences for NATO troops. It is thus clear that the extension of the war to Pakistan, is merely serving to destabilise Pakistan. The Jihadi groups resent bitterly the present role of the Pakistani army to furtherance the US agenda. According to a Pew Global Attitude Survey released in August, 64% of Pakistanis regard the US as an enemy. It is high time the Pakistani civil and military echelons to oppose NATO’s war in Pakistan, and refuse the use of unmanned aircrafts in side settled areas of Pakistan. Only by so doing will the PakistanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s democratic dispensation be able to win the sympathy and support of the Pakistani people ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” a support without which all its efforts in containing the Jihadis will become in futile.

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