Menace of US drones

Sat, 2008-11-22 02:47

By Asif Haroon Raja

USA has no remorse over its brazen acts of aggression and rationalises its invasion and destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq as compulsory acts to ensure security of its homeland. It justifies its offensive actions under Article 51 of UN charter. It is now trying to justify its intended offensive against Pakistan under the same Act on the plea that Pakistan is allowing its soil for breeding terrorism and exporting terrorism into Afghanistan to cause harm to US-Nato troops. If so, why it remains tight-lipped on misuse of Afghan soil by several spy agencies working against the interests of Pakistan?

While so-called cross border terrorism is not causing any harm to homeland of USA, cross border terrorism from Afghanistan into Pakistan is directly impinging upon the integrity and existence of Pakistan. As a policy, US military is extending support to warlords and officials in Afghanistan that are friendly with India and are anti-Pakistan.

Since last July, American attitude towards Pakistan has become highly aggressive. Besides defaming Pak army and the ISI on baseless charges, Pakistan has been declared as a war zone and home to terrorists wherefrom terrorism is exported to Afghanistan. In their view 3.5 million inhabitants of FATA being illiterate, impoverished and unemployed are militants and have turned the area into a military ground which breeds terrorists and provides safe haven to Al-Qaeda. Osama, Al-Zahawari and other high-value targets in their view are based in FATA. Drone attacks on suspected targets in Waziristan have become a norm. The spy planes fly over the north-western region of Pakistan at will and hit targets unchallenged.

The drones hit suspected Al-Qaeda and pro-Pakistan Taliban disregarding collateral damage incurred and ignores anti-army militants. Each attack by the deadly flying machines kill majority of innocent civilians including women and children and very few noted militants get targeted. In this year so far 24 missile attacks have taken place killing 344 civilians. The number of so-called militants does not exceed ten.

The US military justify their selective targeting on the false plea that Pakistan army show little inclination to prevent anti-American groups including Afghan Taliban which cross into Afghanistan and hit US-Nato troops. Attacks are made without seeking permission or even conveying their intent on the plea that the army and the ISI are linked with the Taliban and leak information to them before they are hit. US drones continue to carryout unprovoked acts of aggression while Washington disregards our feeble protests with arrogance. While it castigates Pakistan for not controlling infiltration from FATA, it keeps mum over large-scale infiltration of RAW and RAM agents into Pakistan and drone attacks almost on daily basis.

Despite protests by Pakistani leadership and assurances by American leadership and unanimous resolution in parliament against US intervention, there has been no let up in the aerial attacks. The drones controlled by CIA plan to eliminate all pro-Pakistan Pashtun tribal leaders and notables as well as Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Neither there is any remorse or word of apology from USA on attacking its ally which has rendered huge sacrifices to prevent the Afghanistan front from getting destabilised. The US has now begun to construct new military bases closer to Pakistan’s western border to facilitate employment of drones even in rough weather conditions and to cover larger areas in depth. It implies reliance on spy planes will be further enhanced and option of ground raids suspended for the time being.

Drone attack on a suspected target in Bannu on 18 November allegedly killing an al-Qaeda operative has added a new dimension since the attacks had so far been confined to FATA only.. It indicates that from now onwards the drones would also attack targets inside settled areas of Frontier province and the creeping forward policy would continue till no part of Pakistan would remain safe from drones. Ironically, despite claims of killing al-Qaeda operatives, so far not a single body has been recovered from the sites of attacks. It is widely believed that al-Qaeda is named to cover up failure of their intelligence resulting in collateral damage only. It is also speculated that missile attacks are wilfully launched to push back the militants from forward to rearward areas to not only spread militancy in urban centres but also to find an excuse for drone attacks. PM Gilani has expressed hope that once Obama is in the saddle the drone attacks will come to an end. One wonders the basis of his optimism since Obama has given no such assurance. Even if his wish is granted which is least likely, still there are 60 days before Obama enters Oval Office. Does it imply we will continue to bear the onslaught of drones for this period without a whimper on a wishful assumption?

Irrespective of the deep political polarisation between the Democrats and Republicans in USA, both are on one frequency as far as Pakistan is concerned. The leadership of the two parties as well as State Department, Congress, Pentagon, House of Representatives, CIA and the Jewish lobby in USA feel that the root to terrorism lie in FATA. Three out of five Americans do not want withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan before stamping out terrorism and taking to task Osama bin Laden. These feelings have not changed despite altered perceptions of majority of NATO countries. France, Germany, Poland and Turkey in particular are keen to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan at the earliest. Britain and French military commanders have opined that war in Afghanistan could not be won militarily and have sought a political solution to Afghan imbroglio. The retired US military Generals in particular and some circles within American society have also expressed serious reservations over the skewed way adopted by Bush led team to fight the war on terror that has led to heightened anti-Americanism and has made the world unsafe. Ex Nato commander Gen Wesley Clark has urged more anti-terrorism support for Pakistan and letting Pak army tackle militancy on its soil without outside interference.

The white Americans, American Jews, Israel, India and UK want Obama to do what Bush could not achieve.. They want Pakistan to shed away its India centric mindset and instead wholly concentrate towards the threat posed by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. They want him to convince Pakistan government and the military to consider militancy as the chief threat and not India. They want Pakistan not to waste its energies on Kashmir dispute and save whatever it has or get ready to lose everything. India’s belligerence against its neighbours and massive human rights violations in Kashmir and some other parts of India including massacre of Christians in Orissa doesn’t irk them. They want Obama to play a key role in resolving long outstanding Kashmir issue to the liking of India and not of Pakistan. They are keen to remove the lack of trust between the US-NATO-Afghan forces based in Afghanistan and Pak army so that the four could adopt a unified military strategy to combat the common threat of terrorism.

For the Jews, nuclear Pakistan poses the biggest threat to their security. Iran with nuclear ambitions is another cause of great worry for them. Conversely, Hindu nuclear bomb does not bother them. USA, Canada, Russia and Israel had contributed a great deal towards development of Indian nuclear capability. Unsolved Palestinian problem together with the threat posed by Hamas and Hezbollah are other irritants for Israel.. They feel that Bush by disengagement had strengthened the hands of Hamas. They have not forgotten and forgiven the humiliation suffered at the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon war. They are also keen to receive $30 billion US assistance promised to be delivered in the next decade. The Jews want Obama to address all these problems to their satisfaction. The Jewish lobby in USA know their nuisance value. Without their support none can hope to capture the prestigious slot of presidentship and any president daring to go against their wishes is turned into a political corpse.

Like other presidents, it will be the endeavour of Obama as well to become the protector of Israel. Obama has already indicated his tilt towards Israel by announcing his unconditional support for an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. During his visit to Palestine, he spent only 45 minutes with the aggrieved Palestinians and had no word of sympathy for brutal blockade of Gaza and killing of tens of hundreds Palestinians at the hands of Israeli security forces but he did show concern over few losses of Israelis well knowing that the casualty ratio was 1:400. While he desires dialogue with even those who formed part of Bush’s axis of evil, Obama opposes negotiations with the Hamas. There is increasing awareness among the Americans about the perverse influence of Jews over various organs of state power and hatred against them is spreading.

With the change of government in Washington by 20 January next year, the Democrats under Obama are likely to relegate Iraq front to lower priority since fighting war on two fronts has become financially and socially prohibitive. Obama has pledged to carryout phased withdrawal starting January next year and complete it in 16 months time. After pulling back its forces from frontline duties and shifting few brigades to Afghanistan, USA will then focus its entire attention towards Afghanistan. Keeping one front activated will be logistically and financially viable. However, it will have to be seen how Iraq turns up after the departure of US troops and its allies. Some opine that there is a strong possibility of the country getting split into three states with southern Iraq under Shias and under the influence of Iran would become the dominant state. Such a development will make all Arab Sunni states in the neighbourhood uneasy. Upsurge of Shia power under the patronage of Iran would also impinge upon the security and economic interests of USA, Israel, Europe and Japan in the region. The independent state of Kurds in the north would impact Turkey, Iran and Syria having sizeable Kurds. These factors will cast a heavy pull on the new policy makers in Washington and despite their great urge to withdraw US troops from Iraq; they might not be able to do so for quite some time.

As regards Pakistan, Obama has issued policy statements which give an insight to his thinking. He stated that he expects Pakistan to fully focus on war on terror and should not be distracted by other regional problems. He said that resolution of Kashmir dispute is essential to fight terrorism. What it implies is that USA expects Pakistan to forget about Kashmir by accepting the Line of Control as permanent border, encouraging trade between the two parts of Kashmir, Pakistan to allow land route to India to ship Indian goods to Afghanistan and Central Asia, accept India as the unchallenged regional power, and let India stand up as a bulwark against China. He is keen to change the perceptions of Pakistani leadership and the military about India and make them believe that it is not India but the militants who pose the biggest threat to Pakistan’s security and existence.

Other than the west loving Muslims, the Muslims have seen the inner side of the sole super power which has been following anti-Islamic policies. 9/11 changed the dynamics of the world and gave rise to virulent anti-Muslim racism. US aim is to subjugate Islamic civilisation and to ensure American global ascendancy. Because of unjust policies and double standards, the Bush government fuelled militancy and terrorism and made the world unsafe. In order to give final shape to its New World Order, the US under new leadership is likely to continue browbeating Pakistan economically through its exploitative tools – IMF and World Bank – until Pakistan falls in line with its perceptions and agrees to adopt secularism, roll back its nuclear program and accept India as the regional policeman.

Asif Haroon Raja is a retired Brig and a security and political analyst and writes for several national and foreign newspapers.

- Asian Tribune -

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