Growing Consensus Against U.S Drone Attacks

Posted on April 16, 2009
Filed Under >Jauhar Ismail, Foreign Relations, Politics
42 Comments
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Jauhar Ismail

The recent visit to Pakistan by the U.S Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke and Admiral Mike Mullen highlighted the growing differences between Pakistan and the United States on how to tackle the threat of Pakistani Taliban. At another level, their visit also signified an emerging consensus between Pakistan’s political leadership and security establishment that it can not afford to give in to the U.S. demands and need to chart a different course.


As a recent Dawn editorial noted, the visiting U.S. team was taken aback by the tone of Pakistani officials. Instead of arm-twisting Pakistan into agreeing to joint military operations in the tribal areas, they were confronted with a barrage of criticism and the visit ended with a rare and public acknowledgment of the differences between the two sides. While the PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has been forceful in his opposition to these attacks for quite some time, it appears that the Prime Minister Gilani, President Zardari and the COAS Gen. Kiyani has finally thrown their weight behind this argument. Also a recent report from the bipartisan National Security committee condemned such attacks in the “strongest possible manner”.

Ironically its the Americans that deserve most of the “credit” for causing this convergence of thinking in Pakistan. A sustained campaign of charges in the U.S. press against the ISI for its alleged links with militants led by the senior U.S. Generals coupled with the threat of an expansion in drone attacks to cover Baluchistan and settled parts of Pakistan has finally convinced the national leaders to come out against the U.S. plans. Pakistan is also frustrated at the United States for its failure to make Pakistan’s strategic interests in Afghanistan a part of its new strategy for the region.

While it is too early to know if Pakistan can put up enough resistance to stop these attacks by unmanned aircrafts, it is good to see the change in nation’s attitude. Sovereignty is something that you either use or loose and in the case of Pakistan, we have opted for the later for the past 8 years. No one can deny the emerging threat of Taliban emanating from Pakistan’s tribal belt yet no sovereign country can allow such attacks by a foreign power. The western media often cites the killing of high-level Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders to justify such tactics but they often fail to recognize the impact of such attacks at the strategic level: in addition to the backlash caused by the civilian casualties, these attacks put Pakistan government and army in an impossible situation that they can’t possibly cope with. They have also caused the Taliban to move eastwards into the more settled areas where such attacks are not possible due to population density. A recent report in the Foreign policy magazine summarized the situation as follows:

The US administration justified the drone attacks by claiming it would deny the militants a ‘safe haven’ in Pakistan.‘This line of argument sounds persuasive, but it falls apart on closer examination. For starters, it is not clear that al Qaeda requires a safe haven to do damage, especially since the original organisation has metastasised into smaller groups of sympathisers.’

The magazine pointed out that only a large-scale invasion could eliminate al Qaeda from the region but such an invasion was impossible and therefore there was little reason to continue the drone attacks.

‘US military strikes in Pakistan —even limited ones —tend to undermine the Pakistani government and increase the risk that Pakistan will become a failed state,’ the report noted.

42 responses to “Growing Consensus Against U.S Drone Attacks”

  1. Collateraldamage says:

    Collateral damage is nice word generally used to describe the innocent people killed/injured while carrying out a military attack/strike in a CIVILIAN population. Because of the nature of gorilla warfare it is an unavoidable consequence.

    Why don’t UN/US give sufficient military aid to comb the entire area of AQ. While doing this, they should also modernize and establish the region. Three phase solution would be to: First comb and neutralize the region by disarming. Which will require the greatest will; Second, re-arm according to Pakistani constitution (like a pistol for self defence) to those who desperately want that; Third, establish strict governmental control along with a local industry which particularly suits the region and employ (with training) as much youth as possible.

    To me FATA has always been a foreign land. But I still think it can be re-constructed via a green field approach (assuming no infrastructure).

    Critical thinking and solutions are generally absent from all these analysis. We need practical solutions..

  2. Bloody Civilian says:

    @Raheel

    Baitullah Mehsud said that there will be weekly suicide attacks in Pakistan in retaliation to the Drone attacks.

    If there are people in Pakistan who will support such people and overlook their killing Pakistanis in because the Drones kill about a 10th as many (including non-Pakistanis), then these people have a very sick view of the value of Pakistani lives, of patriotism, sovereignty and of religion.

  3. X-Pakistani says:

    Good idea Mr. Nadeem, Drone attacks should go to Red Mosque mullahs, President house and Supreme Court, it can save us lots of money and time. ATP should start a new poll:

    A. Most likely, Mullah talibans kicking every liberal/educated ass in Pakistan.
    B. Most likely, Zardaari and Sharifs will grow 10″ beards.
    C. “Musharraf was not so bad after all…..oops …. what have we done?”

  4. Nadeem Chaudhry says:

    To The Drone Sender’s:
    Please send a drone to the Red Mosque where the illicit product of a sex act resides…..and yes I mean Abdul Aziz! and while you guys ae at it please send 2 more…one to the President’s House and another to the Supreme Court. What’s another half a billion dollars….consider the savings you will have cutting out the Mr. 10%(s)

  5. Raheel says:

    The logic behind stopping the drone attacks is very simple. THEY ARE NOT WORKING.

    Has militancy stopped because of them? How many real militant leaders have been killed? How many civilians? What is being achieved?

    It is not working to stop militancy or terrorism and is only making the Taliban more strong. They use the drones as a recruiting tool and ordinary Pakistanis end up being unable to criticize Taliban because they seem to be only ones fighting the American attacks. If you stop the drones the effect is that you rob the Taliban of their biggest argument. SO THE LOGIC OF STOPPING DRONE ATTACKS IS THAT IT WILL WEAKEN THE TALIBAN AND THEIR SUPPORT IN PAKISTAN.

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