News reports said a volley of missile strikes from US drones killed 16 alleged militants in Pakistan on Tuesday. The use of drones to assassinate Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan has soared under President Barack Obama.
United States Air Force Capt. Bob operates a Predator unmanned aircraft system over Kandahar, Afghanistan, from Indian Springs, Nevada.
Several US unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, fired a volley of missiles at houses in a village in Pakistan’s northwest on Tuesday and killed roughly 16 alleged Taliban militants, news agencies reported. Information on civilian casualties, if any, was not immediately available.
Agence France-Presse cited an unidentified Pakistani security official as saying that about 18 US missiles were fired at targets in the village of Dattakhel. Earlier news reports put the death toll at about 10. A later report by CNN claimed 29 killed.
The attack is just the latest confirmation of the commitment President Barack Obama has made to the assassination campaign inside Pakistan — a close US ally — that began under his predecessor, President George W. Bush.
The Long War Journal, a blog that focuses its coverage on the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been tracking US drone and other air power attacks in Pakistan for some time. Using open-source information, the blog tallied five US aerial attacks in Pakistan in 2007 and 36 in 2008, most of those in the last half of that year.
In 2009, President Obama’s first year in office, the tempo of such attacks in Pakistan increased 47 percent, to 53. The vast majority of these have been carried out with drones.
Tuesday’s strike brought this year’s tally to 12, with just over 100 fatalities. That’s just under a quarter of last year’s total. If that pace were matched for the rest of the year, there will be 134 US attacks inside Pakistan.
Conflicting public claims
The Long War Journal says that 258 militants and 31 civilians were killed in these attacks in 2007, while 463 militants and 43 civilians were killed in 2008. It reports no civilian casualties so far this year.
To be sure, there are frequently conflicting public claims about the number of civilians or militants killed in such attacks. On a number of a occasions, senior Taliban or Al Qaeda-linked figures have been reported killed, only to emerge on videotape later to say reports of their demise were exaggerated. Hakimullah Mehsud, the current leader of the Pakistani Taliban, was once reported dead – and then made a public appearance in good health. US officials now say they’re confident that he was killed by a December drone strike. His predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed by a US drone strike in August, 2009.
Two of the men vying to replace him at the head of the country’s Taliban movement have also been incorrectly reported as dead in the past.
Strikes controversial among Pakistanis and in strategic circles
The drone strikes have been controversial in Pakistan, where many average citizens view them as an extra-legal violation of national sovereignty by the US, which may be a key provider of military and economic aid to Islamabad but is still viewed with suspicion by millions of the nation’s citizens.
Pakistan has generally been officially quiet about its support for the strikes, but US officials say they generally have approval for their operations and have received targeting information from the Pakistani military, which pressed major offensives against the Taliban in South Waziristan and the Swat Valley last year. The country’s military has been less active in North Waziristan, where the bulk of US aerial attacks have taken place, and the country says it’s not planning major anti-Taliban offensives for 2010. Tuesday’s strikes were in North Waziristan.
The drone strikes have been controversial in strategic circles as well. David Kilcullen, one of the most influential advisers in US counterinsurgency strategy in the past few years, said he opposed drone strikes inside Pakistan last year: “Unilateral strikes against targets inside Pakistan, whatever other purpose they might serve, have an unarguably and entirely negative effect on Pakistani stability,” he wrote in the Small Wars Journal.
But they have emerged as a favorite tactic of the Obama administration, and the US may soon outsource such attacks to Pakistan itself. Pakistani officials have been pressing the US for drones of their own, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently that’s a request the administration is considering fulfilling.
By Dan Murphy Staff writer
February 2, 2010
Source: The Christian Science Monitor
More on the war on terror:
– Obama: ‘I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.’ (!)
Murray asserts that the primary motivation for US and British military involvement in central Asia has to do with large natural gas deposits in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. As evidence, he points to the plans to build a natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan that would allow Western oil companies to avoid Russia and Iran when transporting natural gas out of the region.
Murray alleged that in the late 1990s the Uzbek ambassador to the US met with then-Texas Governor George W. Bush to discuss a pipeline for the region, and out of that meeting came agreements that would see Texas-based Enron gain the rights to Uzbekistan’s natural gas deposits, while oil company Unocal worked on developing the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline.
“The consultant who was organizing this for Unocal was a certain Mr. Karzai, who is now president of Afghanistan,” Murray noted.
“There are designs of this pipeline, and if you look at the deployment of US forces in Afghanistan, as against other NATO country forces in Afghanistan, you’ll see that undoubtedly the US forces are positioned to guard the pipeline route. It’s what it’s about. It’s about money, it’s about oil, it’s not about democracy.”
“I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,” he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department’s head of personnel. “I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.”
“I’m not much for this war. I’m not sure it’s worth all those lives lost,” said Sergeant Christian Richardson as we walked across corn fields that will soon be ploughed up to plant a spring crop of opium poppy.
Opium production rate has soared to 6,900 tons in Afghanistan in the past 10 years ‘despite‘ the presence of 100,000 foreign troops in the country for nearly eight years.
A report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said on Wednesday that Afghanistan produces 92 percent of the world’s opium that has devastating global consequences.
The UN report also noted that Afghanistan’s illegal opium production is worth 65 billion dollars.
The heroin and opium market feeds 15 million addicts, with Europe, Russia and Iran consuming half the supply, UNODC reported.
– Top US commander in Afghanistan: The Taliban have gained the upper hand:
The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the U.S. to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict by increasing the number of troops in heavily populated areas like the volatile southern city of Kandahar, the insurgency’s spiritual home. Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that means U.S. casualties, already running at record levels, will remain high for months to come.
(Source: The Wall Street Journal)