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Posts Tagged ‘North Waziristan’

US drone attacks are no laughing matter, Mr Obama

Posted by Admin on December 31, 2010

drone

http://www.headlinenewsbureau.com/siterun_data/news/world/doc537c4f0415b3bbdf7218ade83cf2648c.html

The president’s backing of indiscriminate slaughter in Pakistan can only encourage new�waves of militancy

Speaking at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in May, Barack Obama spotted teen pop band the Jonas Brothers in the audience. “Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but, boys, don’t get any ideas,” deadpanned the president, referring to his daughters. “Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming.” The crowd laughed, Obama smiled, the dinner continued. Few questioned the wisdom of making such a tasteless joke; of the US commander-in-chief showing such casual disregard for the countless lives lost abroad through US drone attacks.

From the moment he stepped foot inside the White House, Obama set about expanding and escalating a covert CIA programme of “targeted killings” inside Pakistan, using Predator and Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles (who comes up with these names?) that had been started by the Bush administration in 2004. On 23 January 2009, just three days after being sworn in, Obama ordered his first set of air strikes inside Pakistan; one is said to have killed four Arab fighters linked to al-Qaida but the other hit the house of a pro-government tribal leader, killing him and four members of his family, including a five-year-old child. Obama’s own daughter, Sasha, was seven at the time.

But America’s Nobel-peace-prize-winning president did not look back. During his first nine months in office he authorised as many aerial attacks in Pakistan as George W Bush did in his final three years in the job. And this year has seen an unprecedented number of air strikes. Forget Mark Zuckerberg or the iPhone 4 – 2010 was the year of the drone. According to the New America Foundation thinktank in Washington DC, the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan more than doubled in 2010, to 115. That is an astonishing rate of around one bombing every three days inside a country with which the US is not at war.

And the carnage continues. On Monday, CIA drones fired six missiles at two vehicles in a “Taliban stronghold” in north Waziristan, on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan, killing 18 “militants” . Or so said “Pakistani intelligence officials”, speaking under condition of anonymity to the Associated Press. Today another round of drone strikes is thought to have killed at least 15 “militants” in the same area.

These attacks by unmanned aircraft may have succeeded in eliminating hundreds of dangerous militants, but the truth is that they also kill innocent civilians indiscriminately and in large numbers. According to the New America Foundation, one in four of those killed by drones since 2004 has been an innocent. The Brookings Institute, however, has calculated a much higher civilian-to-militant ratio of 10:1. Meanwhile, figures compiled by the Pakistani authorities suggest US strikes killed 701 people between January 2006 and April 2009, of which 14 were al-Qaida militants and 687 were civilians. That produces a hit rate of just 2% – or 50 civilians dead for every militant killed.

The majority of Pakistanis are against the use of drones in the tribal areas on the Afghan border. Their own government, however, despite public opposition to the bombings, has in private expressed support for America’s drones. “I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people,” Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is quoted as saying, in a 2008 cable released by WikiLeaks. ” We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it .”

This is not a left/right issue; criticisms of the drone strikes have come from figures as diverse as Sir Brian Burridge, the UK’s former air chief marshal in Iraq, who has described the aerial slaughter inflicted from afar by unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft as a “virtueless war”; and Andrew Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency expert and former adviser to General David Petraeus, who says that each innocent victim of a drone strike “represents an alienated family, a new revenge feud, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially as drone strikes have increased”.

Kilcullen is spot on. The cold-blooded killing of Pakistani civilians in a push-button, PlayStation-style drone war is not just immoral and perhaps illegal, it is futile and self-defeating from a security point of view. Take Faisal Shahzad , the so-called Times Square bomber. One of the first things the Pakistani-born US citizen said upon his arrest was: “How would you feel if people attacked the United States? You are attacking a sovereign Pakistan.” Asked by the judge at his trial as to how he could justify planting a bomb near innocent women and children, Shahzad responded by saying that US drone strikes “don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody.”

But the innocent victims of America’s secret drone war have become “unpeople”, in the words of the historian Mark Curtis – those whose lives are seen as expendable in the pursuit of the west’s foreign policy goals. Killed via remote control, they remain unseen and unremembered. Forgive me, Mr President, for not seeing the funny side.

Pakistan Barack Obama al-Qaida Global terrorism United States US foreign policy Mehdi Hasan

 

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Officials: CIA station chief pulled from Islamabad

Posted by Admin on December 18, 2010

The flag of Afghanistan between 1997-2001, dis...

Former Flag of Afghanistan showing the Shahadah

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101217/ap_on_go_ot/us_pakistan_cia

WASHINGTON – The CIA has pulled its top spy out of Pakistan after terrorists threatened to kill him, current and former U.S. officials said, an unusual move for the U.S. and a complication on the front lines of the fight against al-Qaida.

The CIA station chief was in transit Thursday after a Pakistani lawsuit earlier this month accused him of killing civilians in missile strikes.

The lawsuit listed a name for the station chief, but The Associated Press has learned the name is not correct. The AP is not publishing the station chief’s name because he remains undercover and his name is classified.

CIA airstrikes from unmanned aircraft have killed terrorist leaders but have led to accusations in Pakistan that the strikes kill innocent people. The U.S. does not acknowledge the missile strikes, but there have been more than 100 such attacks this year — more than double the amount in 2009.

The lawsuit blew the American spy’s cover, leading to threats against him and forcing the U.S. to call him home, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

“Our station chiefs routinely encounter major risk as they work to keep America safe, and they’ve been targeted by terrorists in the past,” CIA spokesman George Little said. “They are courageous in the face of danger, and their security is obviously a top priority for the CIA, especially when there’s an imminent threat.”

The Pakistani lawsuit also named CIA Director Leon Panetta and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Demonstrators in the heart of the capital have carried placards bearing the officer’s name as listed in the lawsuit and urging him to leave the country.

Shahzad Akbar, the lawyer bringing the case, said he got the name listed in the lawsuit from local journalists. He said he included the name because he wanted to sue a CIA operative living within the jurisdiction of the Islamabad court.

A Pakistani intelligence officer said the country’s intelligence service, the ISI, knew the identity of the stationchief, but had “no clue” how the name listed in the lawsuit was leaked.

The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because his agency, like many around the world, does not allow its operatives to be named in the media.

The CIA’s work is unusually difficult in Pakistan, one of the United States’ most important and at times frustrating counterterrorism allies.

The station chief in Islamabad operates as a secret general in the U.S. war against terrorism. He runs the Predator drone program targeting terrorists, handles some of the CIA’s most urgent and sensitive tips and collaborates closely with Pakistan’s ISI, one of the most important relationships in the spy world.

Almost a year ago seven CIA officers and contractors were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan. Six other agency officers were wounded in the attack, one of the deadliest in CIA history.

It’s rare for a CIA station chief to see his cover blown. In 1999, an Israeli newspaper revealed the identity of the station chief in Tel Aviv. In 2001, an Argentine newspaper printed a picture of the Buenos Aires station chief and details about him. In both instances, the station chiefs were recalled to the U.S.

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Associated Press writer Chris Brummitt in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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Pakistani officials: US missiles kill 54 in NW

Posted by Admin on December 17, 2010

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101217/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Three American missile attacks killed 54 alleged militants Friday close to the Afghan border, an unusually high number of victims that included commanders of a Taliban-allied group that were holding a meeting, Pakistani officials said.

The attacks took place in the Khyber tribal region, which has been rarely struck by American missiles before over the last three years. That could indicate a possible expansion of the CIA-led covert campaign of drone strikes inside Pakistani territory.

The Obama administration has intensified missile attacks in northwest Pakistan since taking office, desperate to weaken insurgent networks there that U.S. officials say are behind much of the violence againstU.S. troops just across the frontier in Afghanistan.

The first strike targeted two vehicles in the Sandana area of the Tirah Valley, killing seven militants and wounding another nine. The men were believed to belong to the Pakistani Taliban, one of the country’s largest and deadliest insurgent groups.

Later, missiles hit a compound in Speen Darang village where the Lashkar-e-Islam, a Taliban affiliate known to be strong in Khyber, were meeting, killing 32 people, among them commanders. The third strike took place in Narai Baba village and killed 15 militants, the officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

U.S. officials do not acknowledge firing the missiles, much less comment on who they are targeting. It is impossible to independently report on the aftermath of the attacks because outsiders are not allowed to visit the tribal regions. Human rights groups say there are significant numbers of civilian casualties in the attacks.

Most of the more than 100 missile attacks this year inside Pakistan have taken place in North Waziristan, which is effectively under the control of a mix of Taliban, al-Qaida and related groups. The region, seen as the major militant sanctuary in Pakistan, has yet to see an offensive by the Pakistani military.

On Thursday, President Obama urged Pakistan to do more in tackling extremists in the border lands. Pakistan’s army has moved into several tribal regions over the last two years, but says it lacks the troops to launch a North Waziristan operation anytime soon and hold gains it has made elsewhere.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said the United States would like the Pakistani army to move into North Waziristan “tomorrow” but that he believed Islamabad’s stated reasons for not attacking the region immediately.

“I think there is a capacity issue,” Munter told reporters Friday. “There is a great amount of capacity being used in holding the ground the Pakistani army has won at great cost.”

Pakistani officials protest the missile strikes, but are believed to secretly authorize and provide intelligence on at least some of them. Analysts also say targeting information for many of the attacks is likely to be provided by Pakistani intelligence officials.

Also Friday, police said nine people were killed by mortar rounds fired by suspected Sunni extremists in two attacks in the northwest. The presumed targets in Hangu district and the nearby tribal area of Kurram were Shiite Muslims, said Hangu police chief Abdur Rasheed.

In Hangu, three mortars missed a Shiite mosque, hitting a house, killing six and wounding eight. In Kurram, a mortar hit a house, killing three, he said.

Anti-Shiite militants in Pakistan predate al-Qaida and the Taliban, which are also Sunni. These days, the groups are firmly allied and have overlapping memberships. They generally believe it is acceptable, even meritorious, to kill Pakistan’s minority Shiites because they consider them heretics.

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Associated Press writers Nahal Toosi in Islamabad, Ishtiaq Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Hussain Afzal reporting from Parachinar.

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Another US missile strike kills 3 in Pakistan

Posted by Admin on November 26, 2010

MQ-1L Predator UAV armed with AGM-114 Hellfire...

Remote Controlled Drone Plane

By RASOOL DAWAR, Associated Press Rasool Dawar, Associated Press 56 mins ago

MIR ALI, Pakistan – Suspected U.S. missiles hit a vehicle carrying three alleged militants in Pakistan’s northwest on Friday, the latest in a barrage of strikes by unmanned planes on the Taliban stronghold, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The officials say a pair of missiles hit a moving vehicle in Pir Kali village in North Waziristan. The area is home to a mix of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban fighters who target American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Taliban fighters and local tribesmen fired at three more drones still hovering after the attack, but their assault rifles could not hit the aircraft. The two Pakistani officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media on the record.

The U.S. has ramped up its officially unacknowledged drone attacks in Pakistan‘s lawless border region, launching more than 100 missile strikes this year in an attempt to kill key Taliban and al-Qaida figures.

Most of the attacks have been in North Waziristan, where Islamist militants run terrorist training camps and plot attacks in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has pressured Pakistan to launch a military offensive in North Waziristan to bring the border region under control. But the army has said its forces are stretched thin fighting the Taliban in other areas and dealing with the aftermath of the country’s worst floods, which have driven about 7 million people from their homes.

 

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