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Offline bigron

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Re: Civil War is being Incited in Pakistan - a new murderous phase begins
« Reply #1640 on: July 20, 2011, 10:38:40 am »
The US Love Affair With Drones

A war strategy built around drone attacks is not only unethical, but will hurt US interests in the long run.

By Ted Rall

July 19, 2011 "Al Jazeera" - - One of the pleasures of traveling through the developing world is that things develop. They change. There's always something new.

Afghanistan is, depending on one's point of view, developing, deteriorating, or doing both at once.

Example: Last August found me and two fellow Americans in a hired taxi zooming past bombed-out fuel trucks through Taliban-held Kunduz, a city in northern Afghanistan near the Tajik border. The sense of menace was palpable, but our driver seemed calm.

Then his face darkened. We were passing into the flatlands east of Mazar-i-Sharif. We saw nothing but dirt, dust and rocks, all the way to the horizon. Yet our driver was nervous. He scanned this bleak landscape. "Motorcycles," he said. "I am looking for the motorcycles."

The adaptable neo-Taliban increasingly rely on the classic tactics of guerilla warfare. Rather than hold territory, these postmodern Islamists-cum-gangsters rely on hit-and-run strikes using something I hadn't seen in 2001: motorcycles. Like a scene from the Kazakh film epic about Genghis Khan updated by Quentin Tarantino, squadrons of bearded bikers are terrorizing Afghanistan's newly- and cheaply-paved highways.

I call them the Talibikers.

One of the more intriguing revelations in last year's WikiLeaks data dump was that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency has been supplying the Taliban with thousands of Pamir dirtbikes, including a 2007 shipment of 1,000 to the Waziristan-based network led by Mawlawi Jalaludin Haqqani. Talibs ride the Pamirs and their preferred brand, the Honda 125 and its Chinese knock-offs, to assassinations. They launch attacks on highways from bases in villages 10 to 15 kilometers away.

The Talibikers speed across the desert in great clouds of dust, "Mad Max" style, to ambush and bomb fuel trucks. There they set up checkpoints where they shake down travelers for cash. Sometimes they kidnap motorists and demand ransom payments from their families. By the time the hapless Afghan national police shows up, the resistance fighters are long gone.

An early report on the Talibikers appeared in the Telegraph in 2003. "The motorcycles have played a key role in Taliban hit-and-run operations in the south of the country where the campaign against international troops and aid workers has intensified," the British newspaper reported in November of that year. "In the latest incident, a Frenchwoman working for the United Nations was shot dead this month by the pillion passenger on a motorcycle in the south-eastern town of Ghazni. The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attack.

In another recent attack, a group of motorcyclists opened fire on an aid convoy near Kandahar, killing four Afghans. In August, two motorcyclists threw a grenade into the Kandahar compound of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, damaging the building but causing no injuries."

ISI-funded motorbikes continue to play a vital role in the Taliban's war to drive US and NATO occupation troops out of Afghanistan. "Day and night, Taliban assassins on motorbikes hunt their victims, often taunting them over the telephone before gunning them down in the city’s streets," Paul Watson wrote in The Star, a Canadian newspaper, in February 2011.

"They are working their way through lists, meticulously killing off people fingered as collaborators with the Afghan government or its foreign backers … The build-up of Afghan police and soldiers, and foreign troops, in and around Kandahar city over recent months has improved security, but agile and coldly efficient motorbike death squads remain active."

Mass attacks continue as well. "About 100 Taliban fighters on motorcycles attacked a northern Afghan village that was working to join the government-sponsored local police program against the insurgency, killing one villager, police said Wednesday. An ensuing battle also left 17 militants dead," the Associated Press reported in May 2011.

There are fewer than 10,000 Talibikers in Afghanistan. They could be eliminated - if the US and NATO stopped focusing on assassination-by-drone and instead used the same technology to increase security.

Drones, drones everywhere

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) date to the maiden flight of the now-familiar Predator drones in 1994. After 9/11 the United States became addicted to the Predator and its successor, the Reaper.

Today the Air Force and CIA have at least 7,000 UAVs in service around the world, representing the biggest and most visible presence of the US military in Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. This trend is likely to accelerate. As of March 2011 the US Air Force was training more remote drone "pilots" than those for conventional planes. Next year the Pentagon wants $5 billion just for drones.

Drones are getting smaller and more numerous. "One of the smallest drones in use on the battlefield is the three-foot-long Raven, which troops in Afghanistan toss by hand like a model airplane to peer over the next hill," according to The New York Times. "There are some 4,800 Ravens in operation in the Army, although plenty get lost." More on this later.

 US unveils new 'micro-drone'
It's easy to see why generals and politicians are so enthusiastic. The pilotless planes, guided by operators manning a joystick at military and pseudomilitary agencies such as CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia and armed by Xe, the private contractor formerly called Blackwater, are relatively cheap. A Predator costs $4.5 million; an F-22 Raptor fighter jet runs $150 million a unit.

Peter Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution, cites the "three Ds". Drones are "dull" because they can patrol empty stretches of barren land 24 hours a day. They're "dirty" because they can fly in and out of toxic clouds, including radiation.

Most appealingly, they are "dangerous" because the absence of a pilot eliminates the risk that a pilot - they cost millions to train - will be killed or captured by enemy forces. UAVs exploit the element of surprise: though relatively unobtrusive, they fire supersonic armor-piercing Hellfire missiles capable of striking a target as far as five miles away.

"People who have seen an air strike live on a monitor described it as both awe-inspiring and horrifying," The New Yorker magazine reported in 2009.

"'You could see these little figures scurrying, and the explosion going off, and when the smoke cleared there was just rubble and charred stuff,' a former CIA officer who was based in Afghanistan after September 11th says of one attack. (He watched the carnage on a small monitor in the field.) [Bleeding] human beings running for cover are such a common sight that they have inspired a slang term: 'squirters.'"


According to the Pentagon, drones hit their targets with 95 percent accuracy. The problematic question is: who are their targets?

Thousands of people have been rubbed out by drones since 9/11.

(Press accounts document between 1,400 and 2,300 extrajudicial killings by allied forces, mostly in the Tribal Areas adjacent to Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province. According to media reports cited by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 957 Pakistanis were murdered by American drones in 134 airstrikes during the year 2010 alone. Since the media only learns about a fraction of these "secret" killings, the real number must be many times higher.)

Drone attacks illegal, unethical

Since the Pakistani government does not officially acknowledge, much less authorize, such attacks, they are illegal acts of war.

Political philosopher Michael Walzer asked in 2009: "Under what code does the CIA operate? I don't know. There should be a limited, finite group of people who are targets, and that list should be publicly defensible and available. Instead, it's not being publicly defended. People are being killed, and we generally require some public justification when we go about killing people."

One would think.

Legal or not, Christine Fair of Georgetown University says the US doesn't use drone planes indiscriminately: "You have lawyers, you have targeteers, you have intelligence operatives, you actually have pilots who are manning the drones. These are not 14-year-old kids right out of basic training, playing around with a joystick," she told National Public Radio.

In the real world, it's often hard to tell the difference. There's no doubt that drone operators make mistakes. In April 2011, for example, two American marines were killed by a Predator in Afghanistan.

Of course, the majority of victims are local civilians. In Afghanistan and Pakistan drone strikes have killed countless children and wiped out so many wedding parties that it's become a sick joke. Estimates of the civilian casualty rate range from a third (by the New America Foundation) to 98 percent (terrorism expert Amir Mir). There is no evidence that a single "terrorist" has ever been killed by a drone - only the say-so of US and NATO spokesmen.

Errors are inherent due to the principal feature of the technology: remoteness. Manned aerial warfare is notoriously inaccurate; pilots zooming close to the speed of sound tens of thousands of feet above the ground have little idea who or what they're shooting at. Drone operators have even less information than old-school pilots. Like a submariner peering out of a periscope, they are supposed to decide whether people live or die based on fuzzy images through layers of glass. They call it the "soda straw."

Nowadays, staffing is a troubling challenge: it takes 19 analysts to study images and other data from one drone. In the future, a war could eliminate unemployment entirely: it will take approximately 2,00 men and women to process information from one drone equipped with "Gorgon stare" optics capable of scanning an entire city at once.

There's also a huge gap in education, experience and culture. Virtual warriors require simple rules that don't apply when trying to kill jihadis. At the beginning of the US war against Afghanistan in 2001, for example, it was an article of faith within the Pentagon that men wearing black long-tailed turbans were Talibs.

Dozens, possibly hundreds, of noncombatants were killed because of this incorrect assumption. In February 2002 a drone operator blew up a man because he was tall - as was Osama bin Laden. In fact, he and two other men killed were poor villagers gathering scrap metal. Again, this doesn't address the broader issue of whether it's okay to murder people simply because they are members of the Taliban.

At least as interesting as the choice of target is whom the U.S. does not try to kill: the Talibikers.

Unlike the wedding parties, houses and tribal councils that have been mistakenly incinerated by the aptly-named Hellfire missiles, Taliban bike gangs are easy to identify from the air. One or two hundred dirtbikes speeding across the desert toward a truck on an Afghan highway are unmistakable. Most Afghans, even those who oppose the US occupation, fear the Talibikers and resent being robbed at impromptu checkpoints. There have been a few scattershot drone strikes, nothing more. Why don't the CIA whiz kids make these easily-identified fighters a primary target?

Afghans a low priority for US

I posed the question to Afghan government officials. They told me that the same US military that blows $1 billion a week on the war won't lift a finger to save Afghan lives by providing basic security. "Afghan lives are worth nothing to the Americans," a provincial governor told me.

Last week the United Nations announced that civilian casualties were up 15 percent during the first six months of 2011. If the same rate continues, this will be the worst year of the ten-year-long American occupation.

A well-placed US military source confirms that Afghan security "isn't a priority, it isn't even much of a passing thought". Contrary to President Obama's claim that US is in Afghanistan in order to prevent the country from becoming a base for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups and to combat opium cultivation, he says that Afghanistan isn't about Afghanistan at all. "Afghanistan is a staging area for drone and other aerial strikes in western Pakistan," he says. "Nothing more, nothing less. Afghanistan is Bagram [airbase]."

Under Obama the death toll has risen, worsening relations between the White House and its puppet president, Hamid Karzai. Beyond the horror of the deaths themselves, it would be impossible to overstate the contempt that ordinary people in nations like Afghanistan and Pakistan feel for the drone program. "Americans are cowards" was one refrain I heard last year. Real soldiers risk their lives. They do not send buzzing machines to kill people half a world away…people they know nothing about.

Back in 2002, former CIA general counsel Jeffrey Smith worried about blowback. "If [Taliban leaders and soldiers are] dead, they're not talking to you, and you create more martyrs," he noted. Ongoing drone attacks "suggest that it's acceptable behavior to assassinate people…Assassination as a norm of international conduct exposes American leaders and Americans overseas."

These days, the media gives little to no time or space to such concerns. Americans have moved into postmorality. Right or wrong? Who cares?

Recently international law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell of Notre Dame University said that the new reliance on drones could prompt an already militaristic superpower to fight even more wars of choice. "I think this idea that somehow this technology is allowing us to kill in more places and ... aim at more targets is for me the fundamental ethical and legal problem."

Meanwhile, adds Mary Dudziak of the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law: "Drones are a technological step that further isolates the American people from military action, undermining political checks on…endless war." No casualties? No problem.

Meanwhile, at a "microaviary" inside an air force base north of Dayton, Ohio, "military researchers are at work on another revolution in the air: shrinking unmanned drones, the kind that fire missiles into Pakistan and spy on insurgents in Afghanistan, to the size of insects and birds", approvingly reports The New York Times.

Ted Rall is an American political cartoonist, columnist and author. His most recent book is The Anti-American Manifesto. His website is

Offline bigron

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Re: Civil War is being Incited in Pakistan - a new murderous phase begins
« Reply #1641 on: July 21, 2011, 11:08:52 am »
Drones: The fallout

Dr Irfan Zafar

July 20, 2011

United States has been conducting covert operations to target and kill Al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders hiding in the volatile northwest province of Pakistan since 2004. Much of the reaction against these killings has emerged after the supposed killing of Osama Bin laden through an operation which was carried out without taking Government of Pakistan in confidence. This action was subsequently followed by more Drone strikes despite hollow "cosmetic" out cries by the country’s leadership and establishment.

Putting aside for a while the question of whatever Sovereignty we are left with, the bigger issue relates to the effectiveness of these drone strikes which in essence are creating more targets to deal with instead of limiting them. What the American government fails to comprehend is the fact that the faith of any individual is not something physical which can be eliminated through the drone strikes and in reality requires intellectual wisdom; an attribute most of the American policy makers seem to be devoid of.

There have been 254 strikes in total till date since the program began in 2004. The number of US airstrikes inside Pakistan from 2004-2011 stand at 1, 1, 3, 5, 35, 53, 117 and 43 respectively. Interestingly, 248 of those strikes have taken place since January 2008. During this period, the drone attacks have killed 2,462 individuals, out of which around 1,979 were described as militants. Thus, the true non-militant fatality rate since 2004 is approximately 19.61%. From 2004-2007, 112 individuals lost their lives to the drone strikes compared to 314 in 2008, 725 in 2009, 993 in 2010 and 318 as of today in 2011. Over the past six years, the strikes have focused on two regions: North and South Waziristan. Over the past two years, there has been a dramatic shift in the location of the strikes. In 2009, 42% of the strikes have taken place in North Waziristan and 51% in South Waziristan. In 2010, 89% of the strikes have taken place in North Waziristan and only 6% in South Waziristan. Of the 254 strikes since 2004, 70% have hit targets in North Waziristan, and 25% have hit targets in South Waziristan.

The majority of the attacks have taken place in the tribal areas administered by four powerful Taliban groups: the Mehsuds, Mullah Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, and the Haqqanis. In 2010, there was a dramatic shift in strikes to tribal areas administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Hafiz Gul Bahadar is based in North Waziristan. The high profile leaders killed from 2004-2007 were 3 in number followed by 11 in 2008, 7 in 2009, 12 in 2010 and 2 in 2011. Thus in total 35 high profile leaders have been eliminated in 254 strikes which killed 2,462 individuals giving a drone accuracy rate of only 13.77% in terms of high value targets.

In essence, what the United States is trying to achieve through its "efforts" to catch high value targets has an "inaccuracy" rate of 86.22%. Similarly the innocent civilian killed and labeled conveniently as collateral damage number 483 as per US own doubtable Statistics. These are not simply 483 individuals vanishing from the screen but they are leaving behind an average of minimum four members per family having all the conviction to fight against the Americans for whatever the cost may be. So what the drone strikes are achieving is creating 1932 (4 family members x 483 innocent victims) new targets against killing 1,979 terrorists thus giving a success rate of only 2.37%. Inaccuracy rate of 86.22% coupled with success rate of only 2.37% is playing the role of a catalyst to further aggravate the situation.

The solution to all this lies not in killing people for the only thing which can turnaround this hysterical wave of terror is the mindset change which comes through long term sustainable efforts towards working on minds and not on mindless endeavors. Historically, wars have created more disasters than coming up with solutions, a fact reinforced by looking at the plight of people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let’s act before everything is lost forever.

—The writer is a social activist.



Offline bigron

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Re: Civil War is being Incited in Pakistan - a new murderous phase begins
« Reply #1642 on: August 02, 2011, 07:39:14 am »

Fighting Back Against The CIA Drone War

By: Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

July 31, 2011 "The Nation" -- They call it “bug splat”, the splotch of blood, bones, and viscera that marks the site of a successful drone strike. To those manning the consoles in Nevada, it signifies “suspected militants” who have just been “neutralised”; to those on the ground, in most cases, it represents a family that has been shattered, a home destroyed.

Since June 18, 2004, when the CIA began its policy of extrajudicial killings in Pakistan, it has left nearly 250 such stains on Pakistani soil, daubed with the remains of more than 2,500 individuals, mostly civilians. More recently, it has taken to decorating other parts of the world.

Since the Pakistani government and its shadowy intelligence agencies have been complicit in the killings, the CIA has been able to do all this with complete impunity. Major human rights organisations in thrall to the Obama Administration have given it a pass. So have the media, who uncritically accept officials’ claims about the accuracy of their lethal toys. Two recent developments might change all this.


On July 18, 2011, three Pakistani tribesmen, Kareem Khan, Sadaullah, and Maezol Khan, filed a formal complaint against John A Rizzo, the CIA’s former acting General Counsel, at a police station in Islamabad. Until his retirement on June 25, 2009, Rizzo served as legal counsel to the programme whose victims have included Kareem Khan’s son and brother, Maezol Khan’s seven-year-old son, and three family members of Sadaullah (who also lost both legs and an eye in the attack).

In an interview with Newsweek’s Tara McKelvey, Rizzo bragged that he was responsible for signing off on the “hit list” for “lethal operations”. The targets were “blown to bits” in “businesslike” operations, he said. By his own admission, he is implicated in “murder”. Indeed, he boasted: “How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?” And that is not the full extent of Rizzo’s derring-do: he claims he was also “up to my eyeballs” in Bush’s programme of torture in black sites in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The detailed First Information Report (FIR) that barrister Mirza Shahzad Akbar prepared on behalf of the tribesmen was filed at the Secretariat Police Station in Islamabad, whose territorial jurisdiction includes the residence of Rizzo’s leading co-conspirator Jonathan Banks, the CIA station chief who has since fled Pakistan. As a party to a conspiracy to commit murder in Pakistan, Akbar believes that Rizzo is subject to the country’s penal code.

Clive Stafford Smith, the celebrated human rights lawyer best known as George W Bush’s nemesis over Guantanamo, is leading the campaign to secure an international arrest warrant for Rizzo. Asked about the question of jurisdiction, Smith told me that that “there is no issue of jurisdiction - these are a series of crimes, including murder … committed on Pakistani soil against Pakistani citizens”. The CIA, he says, is “waging war against Pakistan”. He insists that “there is no question that [Rizzo] is liable for the crimes he is committing. The only issue is whether he will face the music or be kept hidden by the authorities”.

Smith, who heads the legal charity Reprieve, is a practical man, uninterested in mere symbolic gestures. Earlier, he successfully sued the Bush administration for access to prisoners at Guantanomo and has so far secured the release of 65 of them. He is confident that once the Islamabad police issues a warrant, Interpol will have no choice but to pursue the case. Furthermore, he notes, depending on the success of this test case, they will broaden it to also include drone operators.

The US position so far is to either claim that it is engaged in legitimate self-defence, or to make the policy more palatable by downplaying its human cost. Neither argument is tenable.

The laws of war do not prohibit the killing of civilians unless it is deliberate, disproportionate or indiscriminate. However, Akbar and Smith reject the applicability of these laws to CIA’s drone war. “The US has to follow the laws of war,” Smith recently told the Guardian. But “the issue here is that this is not a war” - there is no declared state of conflict between the US and Pakistan.

Moreover, Gary Solis of Georgetown University, an expert in the laws of war, told Newsweek that “the CIA who pilot unmanned aerial vehicles are civilians directly engaged in hostilities, an act that makes them ‘unlawful combatants’ and possibly subject to prosecution”.


The US government has made bold claims for the extraordinary accuracy of its wonder-weapons. In a press conference earlier this year, US president Barack Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan insisted that “nearly for the past year there hasn’t been a single collateral death” in the CIA’s drone war.

This would be remarkable indeed if it weren’t demonstrably false. A major investigation by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) has shown that in just ten CIA drone attacks since August last year there were a minimum of 45 individuals killed who were confirmed civilians. These include women, children, policemen, students and rescuers among others. TBIJ has also identified an additional 15 attacks in which 65 more civilians might have been killed.

Unlike the New America Foundation or the neoconservative Long War Journal - the two most frequently cited, and least reliable, sources on drone casualties - TBIJ’s investigation does not rely on official claims or the media reports that exclusively rely on them. Chris Woods, the journalist who led the TBIJ investigation, told me earlier this month that, besides reviewing thousands of media reports about the attacks - including those written days, weeks, or even months after the initial incident - the Bureau has worked with journalists, researchers, and the lawyers representing the civilians killed in the attacks. The Bureau has also employed its own researchers in Waziristan to corroborate the evidence it has gathered.

However, as the Bureau notes, its figures for civilian casualties are a “conservative estimate”. It has only included those in its list whose civilian status it can confirm through multiple sources. The actual figures are likely much higher. But given the restrictions on travel to the region, a more comprehensive assessment of the war’s human cost remains impossible.

The respected Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai told me that it is no longer possible for journalists from outside to travel to the tribal region and, as a result, most of the reporting comes from a handful of stringers based in Miranshah and Mir Ali.

Confined to the environs of the region’s two main cities, even the journalists based in FATA have to call up the military’s press office for information on all strikes that occur beyond those limits. The kind of courage exhibited by 39-year-old Noor Behram, who photographed the aftermath of 27 drone attacks in North and South Waziristan between November 29, 2008, and June 15, 2011, is rare. The photos are currently on display at London’s Beaconsfield gallery. Unsurprisingly, the picture that emerges does not quite jibe with the CIA’s claims. “For every ten to 15 people killed,” he told the Guardian, “maybe they get one militant”.

The CIA claims that of the nearly 2,500 Pakistanis killed in the drone attacks, 35 were “high value targets” - that is, people it actually intended to kill. The rest it claims were mostly “suspected militants”. The world of think-tankery is even more linguistically challenged - in the New America Foundation’s database there is no category for “civilian” - there are only “militants” and “others”. Given the history of both the US and Pakistani spy organisations there is ample ground for scepticism, but in the light of the Bureau’s investigation, the public would be wise to treat all future victims of the drone war as civilians unless proven otherwise.

But even where guilt is established, the killings would still constitute extra-judicial murder since no declared state of hostilities exists between the US and Pakistan. Things have come a long way since July 2001, when following Israel’s “targeted killing” of Palestinians, the then US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk declared: “The United States government is very clearly on record as against targeted assassinations ... They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.”

Under Obama, extrajudicial killings have been adopted as a less complicated alternative to detention. Earlier in the year, Newsweek quoted one of Obama’s legal svengalis - American University’s Kenneth Anderson, author of an essay on the subject that was read widely by Obama White House officials - as saying: “Since the US political and legal situation has made aggressive interrogation a questionable activity anyway, there is less reason to seek to capture rather than kill.”

“And if one intends to kill, the incentive is to do so from a standoff position because it removes potentially messy questions of surrender.”


So far, the drones policy has been an unmitigated disaster. The handful of Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders killed have been replaced by a more ruthless leadership which has progressively expanded its operational ambit into the Pakistani mainland. To the extent that “militants” are killed, they are mostly foot soldiers whose death has no discernible impact on the outcome of the insurgency; indeed, it merely helps deepen resentment and broaden the militants’ support base. The CIA practice of bombing funerals and rescuers has ensured that even those who might otherwise disdain the Taliban identify with them as common victims of a uniquely barbarous adversary. Unable to strike back at the US, the Taliban instead revenge themselves on Pakistani soldiers and civilians in attacks that are no less brutal.

Two years ago, when I spoke to Yusufzai amid one of the most ferocious wave of terrorist attacks on Peshawar, he remained optimistic that, once the US withdrew from Afghanistan the militancy would recede. Events of the past two years have tempered his optimism. Last week when I spoke to him again, he told me that conditions have deteriorated so much that Pakistan will have to live with the consequences of America’s reckless war long after it has withdrawn.

The drone attacks are merely compounding the mess.

Campaigners in Britain and Pakistan are determined to bring transparency to Obama’s secretive war and justice to its victims.

Barrister Akbar told me in an email that with his team of researchers, he is “working to dig out information beyond the news reports, trying to find out the identities of individuals killed in drone strikes”. He is now representing a growing number of individuals who have lost family members to the CIA drones, and many more are coming forward.

“This is only the start of a long, long, peaceful battle to stop this kind of ‘murder by videogame’,” says Smith. “What we most need are allies willing to work with us, and help provide truthful information about what is really happening on the ground in Pakistan’s border regions.” –Aljazeera

Offline bigron

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Re: Civil War is being Incited in Pakistan - a new murderous phase begins
« Reply #1643 on: August 02, 2011, 07:52:04 am »

Former Intel Chief: Call Off The Drone War

(And Maybe the Whole War on Terror)

By Noah Shachtman[/size


July 31, 2011 "Wired" - -ASPEN, Colorado — Ground the U.S. drone war in Pakistan. Rethink the idea of spending billions of dollars to pursue al-Qaida. Forget chasing terrorists in Yemen and Somalia, unless the local governments are willing to join in the hunt.

Those aren’t the words of some human rights activist, or some far-left Congressman. They’re from retired admiral and former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair — the man who was, until recently, nominally in charge of the entire American effort to find, track, and take out terrorists. Now, he’s calling for that campaign to be reconsidered, and possibly even junked.

Starting with the drone attacks. Yes, they take out some mid-level terrorists, Blair said. But they’re not strategically effective. If the drones stopped flying tomorrow, Blair told the audience at the Aspen Security Forum, “it’s not going to lower the threat to the U.S.” Al-Qaida and its allies have proven “it can sustain its level of resistance to an air-only campaign,” he said.

It’s one of many reasons why it’s a mistake to “have that campaign dominate our overall relations” with countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. “Because we’re alienating the countries concerned, because we’re treating countries just as places where we go attack groups that threaten us, we are threatening the prospects of long-term reform,” Blair said.

The “unilateral” strikes in Pakistan have to come to an end, he added, and be replaced with operations that had the full cooperation of the government in Islamabad. The effort needed “two hands on the trigger,” Blair said. And strikes should be launched only when “we agree with them on what drone attacks” should target.

The statements won’t exactly win Blair new friends in the Obama administration, which forced him out of the top intelligence job about a year after he was nominated. Not only has Obama drastically escalated the drone war — there’ve been 50 strikes in the first seven months of this year, almost as many as in all of 2009. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the remotely-piloted attacks the “only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al-Qaida leadership.”

Plus, American relations with the Pakistani government are at their lowest point in years. And every time Washington tries to tip off Islamabad to a raid, it seems, the targets of the raid seem to conveniently skip town. No wonder the U.S. kept the mother of all unilateral strikes — the mission to kill Osama bin Laden — a secret from their erstwhile allies in Pakistan.

But Blair believes the cooperation — not only with Pakistan, but also with the government in Yemen and with whatever authorities can be found in Somalia — is the only way to bring some measure of peace to the world’s ungoverned spaces. “We have to change in those three countries,” he told the Forum (Full disclosure: I’m a moderator on one of the panels here.)

The reconsideration of our relationship with these countries is only the start of the overhaul Blair has in mind, however. He noted that the U.S. intelligence and homeland security communities are spending about $80 billion a year, outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yet al-Qaida and its affiliates only have about 4,000 members worldwide. That’s $20 million per terrorist per year, Blair pointed out.

“You think — woah, $20 million. Is that proportionate?” he asked. “So I think we need to relook at the strategy to get the money in the right places.”

Blair mentioned that 17 Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by terrorists since 9/11 — 14 of them in the Ft. Hood massacre. Meanwhile, auto accidents, murders and rapes combine have killed an estimated 1.5 million people in the past decade. “What is it that justifies this amount of money on this narrow problem?” he asked.

Blair purposely let his own question go unanswered.

Offline bigron

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Re: Civil War is being Incited in Pakistan - a new murderous phase begins
« Reply #1644 on: August 03, 2011, 06:53:24 am »
South Asia
     Aug 4, 2011 

  Ban on Pakistan Taliban too little too late

By Amir Mir



Offline bigron

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Re: Civil War is being Incited in Pakistan - a new murderous phase begins
« Reply #1645 on: August 04, 2011, 09:37:06 am »

South Asia
Aug 5, 2011

A revolving CIA door in Pakistan

By Amir Mir

ISLAMABAD - The ever-growing mistrust between the military and intelligence establishments of the two key allies in the "war on terror" - Washington and Islamabad - has widened to such an extent in recent months that their damaged ties are unlikely to reach the same level at which they were prior to the American military raid in Abbottabad on May 2 that killed the most wanted al-Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden.

As Pakistan-United States military and intelligence ties continue to deteriorate following the January arrest of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractor Raymond Davis for having killed two Pakistanis, Mark Carlton, the station chief of the CIA in Islamabad who oversaw the intelligence team that found the al-Qaeda chief, has been made to leave Pakistan prematurely.

This is allegedly under the pressure of the country's all-powerful military and intelligence establishment that has been stung by the embarrassment and humiliation of the Abbottabad fiasco. It is the second time since January that the CIA's top-most officer has been compelled to leave Pakistan ahead of time due to the ongoing spy war between the CIA and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The station chief - one of the CIA's most important positions in the world - had been posted to Pakistan only in February. His unceremonious exit shows that the ISI and the CIA are still far from recovering the tense relationship they had last year when the previous station chief also had to leave due to "unavoidable circumstances".

The CIA declined to comment on the matter. "The chief of the Islamabad station is a respected, senior officer who had the full faith and confidence of folks back in Washington," a senior US official told Agence France-Presse on July 30 on condition of anonymity. "Most people will agree the officer's role in one of the greatest intelligence victories of all time (Bin Laden's killing] means this person was pretty darn effective, no matter what the Pakistanis may think."

However, well-informed diplomatic circles in Islamabad say Carlton had to leave after it transpired in the aftermath of the Bin Laden raid that he had been running a clandestine network of American and Pakistani intelligence agents without the knowledge of the ISI.

They claimed that the CIA chief had an extremely contentious relationship with his ISI counterparts, as had been the case with the previous station chief, Jonathan Banks, who was made to leave the federal capital after his security cover was blown and his identity revealed. This was allegedly done by the Pakistani intelligence establishment as a reaction to the summoning of the ISI chief by a US federal court to defend his alleged involvement in the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, allegedly carried out by the Pakistani outfit, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

A US federal court issued a summons to sitting and former director generals of the ISI, as well as a number of senior office bearers of the LeT for their alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks, asking them to appear before it. The court was hearing a law suit filed by relatives of Gavriel Noah Holtzberg, an American Jew who was killed along with his wife during the attacks. The petitioners alleged that the ISI had a role in the incident that killed their loved ones.

The development deeply upset the Pakistani military establishment, causing strains in the already shaky CIA-ISI ties.

On December 16, 2010, almost a month after the issuance of the summons for the ISI chief and others, Islamabad police moved to register a murder case against Banks who was reportedly supervising the deadly drone campaign in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

The complainant in the case was Kareem Khan, a journalist and resident of the Mirali area in the North Waziristan tribal agency. He claimed that his son and brother were innocent civilians who were killed in a December 31, 2009, US drone attack. Banks was charged in the case with providing operational guidance for the strike.

Khan's application to register the case against the CIA chief stated: "Jonathan Banks is operating from the American Embassy in Islamabad, which is a clear violation of diplomatic norms and laws, as a foreign mission cannot be used for any criminal activity in a sovereign state."

Khan also alleged that Banks was in the country on a business visa, which would give him no diplomatic status and thus not protect him from prosecution. Few legal experts expected the case to succeed, but the lawsuit blew Banks' cover and led to threats against his life.

That was the first time since the American drone campaign was launched in the tribal areas in 2004 that any victim of a missile strike had sought legal action against a CIA official.

The Barack Obama administration subsequently decided to withdraw Banks from Islamabad, citing security threats following the lodging of Khan's complaint against him. But diplomatic circles in the federal capital were of the view that the case against the CIA station chief could not have been lodged without the consent of the Pakistani military establishment, whose mood had changing ever since the ISI chief was summoned by a US court.

Therefore, the filing of the case against Banks was largely seen as a tit-for-tat move, in a bizarre battle of one-upmanship between the ISI and the CIA. Quoting intelligence sources, the US media subsequently alleged that the ISI was involved in blowing the cover of the CIA station chief, especially at a time when Washington was pushing Islamabad to expand a new CIA effort to help target al-Qaeda and Taliban militants on the trouble-stricken Pakistan-Afghanistan border belt.

Before being made to leave, Pakistani authorities blew, in a subtle way, the security cover of Carlton, despite the fact that it was a breach of both protocol and trust. His identity was revealed through a press release to Pakistan's print and electronic media (a few days after the May 2 raid to kill Bin Laden), stating, "The ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha had met CIA station chief Mark Carlton in Islamabad to protest the American incursion into Abbottabad. The exposure of his identity might have been another reason for Mark Carlton's premature exit from Islamabad because the CIA station chiefs always remain anonymous and unnamed in public although the host government is told."

The departure of two station chiefs in a short span of six months clearly threatens to upset a vital intelligence office that is supposed to play a key role in the region to ensure the success of the US-led "war on terror".

The CIA and the ISI, two long-time partners since the days of the Afghan jihad in the 1980s, have never had a trouble-free relationship since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US and Pakistan's subsequent decision to join hands with the US in the "war on terror".

Ties have long been rocked by apprehensions over the Pakistani intelligence establishment's alleged backing of jihadi groups active in India and Afghanistan. The CIA alleges that many of these terrorist groups are linked to anti-US elements, especially al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Therefore, while key American government officials admit during their visits to Pakistan that Islamabad has helped Washington kill and seize dozens of the most wanted al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists, they adopt a totally different stance back home - often accusing the ISI of having double standards while dealing with al-Qaeda and the Taliban-linked militants who are operating from the AfPak tribal belt. The fact that Bin Laden had been hiding in an army town close to the federal capital only reinforced suspicions in Washington that Pakistan was an unreliable partner in the fight against al-Qaeda.

At the same time, however, their wobbly ties hit an all-time low following the unilateral US raid in Abbottabad, mainly because it was conducted without the knowledge of Pakistani military and intelligence establishment, and that too by secretly recruiting Pakistani agents to help find Bin Laden.

As Pakistan's all-powerful military establishment and the civilian leadership reacted strongly to the covert US operation that had breached Pakistan's territorial sovereignty, the Obama administration decided to withhold $800 million US military assistance to Pakistan. Reacting angrily, the Pakistani military establishment launched a counter-offensive by asking Washington to reduce the number of US troops in the country besides closing all three military intelligence liaison centers in Pakistan.

American special operations units had relied on these three facilities, two in Peshawar and one in Quetta, to help coordinate anti-al-Qaeda and anti-Taliban operations on both sides of the AfPak border. These units have now been withdrawn the centers are being shut down.

The two intelligence centers in Peshawar were set up in 2009, one with the Pakistani army's 11th Corps and the other with the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which are both headquartered in Peshawar city, capital of troubled Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province. The third fusion cell was opened in 2011 at the Pakistani army's 12th Corps headquarters in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province that is allegedly being used by Taliban fighters to carry out cross-border ambushes in the southern provinces of Afghanistan.

The closures have effectively stopped the American training of the Pakistani Frontier Corps; a force that Washington had hoped could help halt infiltration of al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked militants into Afghanistan.

On June 10 the United States officially confirmed having withdrawn troops from Pakistan after it was asked to reduce the number because of the growing tensions over the Bin Laden episode. Vice Admiral Michael LeFever, US defense representative in Pakistan, said the decision to pull out troops had been taken after a request from Islamabad. "We recently received a written request from the government of Pakistan to reduce the number of US military personnel here, and we have nearly completed that reduction," said LeFever.

As if the closure of the American intelligence centers and the withdrawal of the US troops were not enough to tease Washington, the Pakistani establishment further decided to impose travel restrictions on US diplomats based in Pakistan.

Although the Foreign Office had notified all diplomatic missions, including the US, in June that diplomats would require a no-objection certificate (NoC) while traveling to other parts of Pakistan, things came to a head when the US ambassador, Cameron Munter, was stopped at Benazir Bhutto Airport in Islamabad on July 30 and asked to furnish the document permitting his travel to the southern port city of Karachi. Cameron Munter, who in fact possessed the document, took strong exception to having been asked and strongly protested to the Pakistan government.

In one case, US officials were stopped at a toll booth and a group of Pakistani journalists was waiting for them to arrive. In another case, CIA officials were stopped at a check point in Peshawar and held long enough for the media to show up and take their pictures while producing their travel NoCs.

The Americans see the NoC requirement as a violation of Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR), which obligates the host state to "ensure to all members of the mission freedom of movement and travel in its territory".

But Pakistani officials contest the US Embassy's view, saying that under the VCDR, movement can be regulated for national security purposes. The Foreign Office in a rejoinder to the US claim said, "Pakistan is fully mindful of its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations." The statement denied that the curbs were US specific and insisted that the requirement was for the security of the diplomats.

However, the Pakistani media subsequently quoted an anonymous official in the country's security establishment as saying that the travel restrictions on diplomats were enforced because of the travel of undercover US intelligence agents, who have been assigned to Pakistan as diplomats.

"No sovereign state can allow spies of another country to operate within its boundary on their own, irrespective of their mutual relations," the official added. Even though, the official did not explicitly say the checks were meant to counter the movement of the CIA officials, it wasn't difficult to judge from his statement that he was referring to CIA sleuths, who are still believed to be operating in Pakistan on their own while ignoring the revised terms of engagement between the ISI and the CIA.

The breakdown of Pakistan-US military and intelligence ties is more worrisome for the US, which is anxious to reach a settlement in Afghanistan before withdrawing US-led forces from the war-stricken country. US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen stated on July 25 that Pakistan-US military-to-military ties were at a "very difficult" crossroads, and that a path to progress on that front was not yet clear.

Mullen said at a press briefing in Washington: "We are in a very difficult time right now in our military-to-military relations. Despite the strain, I don't think that we are close to severing those ties. I hope the two nations would soon find a way to recalibrate those ties. But still, we need to work through the details of how this recalibration is going to happen."

Almost a week after Mullen's statement, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari underlined the need for clear terms of engagement that should be agreed on beforehand between Pakistan and the US in the "war on terror" so that conflicting positions and unilateral actions do not affect bilateral relations.

During his meeting with Marc Grossman, the US special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, who called on him at the presidency, Zardari said that in the absence of well-defined and documented terms of engagement, wrong plugs might be pulled at the wrong times by any side that could undermine bilateral ties.

The president said that the terms of Pakistan-US military and intelligence engagements should be clearly defined and specified so that disputes could be settled amicably through available institutions.

Nevertheless, many in Pakistan believe that even after terms of engagement are agreed, it would be hard for those sitting in general headquarters in Rawalpindi and the Pentagon to regain the lost buoyancy.

Amir Mir is a senior Pakistani journalist and the author of several books on the subject of militant Islam and terrorism, the latest being The Bhutto murder trail: From Waziristan to GHQ.


Offline bigron

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Re: Civil War is being Incited in Pakistan - a new murderous phase begins
« Reply #1646 on: August 04, 2011, 12:10:44 pm »
It’s Not Just Bin Laden; U.S. Commandos Raid Pakistan All the Time

By Noah Shachtman

Wired, August 2, 2011

U.S. special operations forces have regularly and "surreptitiously" slipped into Pakistan in recent years, raiding suspected terrorist hideouts on Pakistani soil. The team that killed Osama bin Laden — those guys alone had conducted "10 to 12″ of those missions before they hit that infamous compound in Abbottabad.

In a remarkable story for this week’s New Yorker, Nicholas Schmidle puts together the most detailed picture so far of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. But the most combustible  component of the explosive article might be the disclosure that U.S. commandos sneak into Pakistan on the regular.

Over the last week, current and one-time top officials have debated the wisdom of the U.S. launching unilateral strikes in places like Pakistan. Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told a gathering of security professionals in Aspen that the attacks weren’t worth the local antipathy they generated. Retired Gen. Doug Lute, who oversees Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy at the White House, admitted that there was a major "humiliation factor." But he told the conference that now was the time to "double down" on the raids, with al-Qaida in disarray. "We need to go for the knockout punch."

Most people in the audience assumed Lute was talking about additional drone attacks. Perhaps Navy SEALs would deliver the hit, instead.

In many minds, that decisive blow landed last May, when Navy SEALs took out the world’s most wanted terrorist. Schmidle’s piece confirms much of what we already knew about the bin Laden raid: yes, they used a stealthy spy drone and a radar-evading Black Hawk and a particularly ferocious dog; yes, bin Laden was unarmed; yes, the SEALs found his porn.

But Schmidle reveals tons of new details, too. One SEAL bear-hugged bin Laden’s wives, to keep them from detonating suicide vests (an unnecessary precaution, it turns out). The commandos considered tunneling into the compound — until overhead imagery showed that the water table would prevent any digging. At least three of the SEALs were part of the operation that rescued Maersk Alabama captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates.

Since the bin Laden raid, the government of Pakistan claimed it was kicking dozens of U.S. military trainers out of the country. Islamabad made noises about shutting down a base from which U.S. drones took off. Generally, relations between the two countries have gone into the toilet.

But the drone attacks haven’t let up. Will the special operations raids continue, as well? Or was the bin Laden operation the final mission?

One side note: at last week’s Aspen Security Forum, Special Operations Command chief Adm. Eric Olson refused again and again to answer questions about the bin Laden raid. Too much had been disclosed already. "For the special operations community, the 15 minutes of fame lasted about 14 minutes too long," Olson said. But the admiral – who oversaw the mission, is responsible for all special operations forces, and almost certainly approved Schmidle’s access to his troops – did offer one thought: the raid was routine. A "dozenish" of these kill-or-capture missions were launched every night, mostly in Afghanistan. "Eleven went left," Olson noted, "one went right."

Interestingly, a senior Defense Department official talking to Schmidle used almost identical language. "Most of the missions take off and go left," he said. "This one took off and went right." Perhaps it’s not so bad if those 15 minutes last another second or two longer.

Photo: U.S. Army


Offline bigron

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Re: Civil War is being Incited in Pakistan - a new murderous phase begins
« Reply #1647 on: August 12, 2011, 08:33:49 am »

US drone strike kills 21 in northwest Pakistan, biggest in weeks


August 10, 2011


A US drone strike killed at least 21 suspected militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region on Wednesday, officials said, just days after Pakistan called for "clear terms of engagement" in the US-Pakistan relationship.

Among those targeted in the attack on a house 3 km (2 miles) east of the main town of Miranshah were members of the Haqqani network responsible for the worsening insurgency in eastern Afghanistan, and foreign militants.

"The dead included local Taliban as well as some Arabs and Uzbek nationals," an intelligence official in North Waziristan said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It was the largest strike since July 12, when US drones killed 48 suspected militants in North Waziristan.

Drone strikes have been a major source of friction between the United States and Pakistan, with ties at their worst since US Special Forces killed Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in a secret raid in a Pakistani garrison town in May.

Last week, President Asif Ali Zardari called for "clear terms of engagement" between the two countries in the fight against members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban operating in the country.

He did not spell out the terms of engagement but they likely involve more consultation on drone strikes as well as greater oversight of CIA activities in Pakistan, military experts said.

While Pakistan in the past was seen to have given tacit support to the drone campaign in its militant-infested northwest region, the red lines appeared to have been crossed with the Bin Laden raid.

Pakistan saw that operation as a grievous breach of sovereignty prompting army chief General Ashfaq Kayani to call for a halt to the drone strikes.

But Washington appears determined to press forward with drone attacks, which its sees as an effective tool to stem cross-border attacks by militants on foreign forces in Afghanistan.

Some Afghan insurgents belonging to the Haqqani network, a major militant fighting US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan, were among the dead in Wednesday’s strike, a Pakistani intelligence official said.

It was not immediately known if any high-profile militants were among the dead. Militants often dispute official account of such strikes.

Initial reports said five militants were killed in the attack but officials said the toll had gone up to 21 after more bodies were found from the rubble of the house.

The latest strike took the death toll of suspected militants in such attacks since the beginning of June to more than 160, according to Reuters figures based on statements from local intelligence officials.