Saturday, 31 March 2012

Drone Strike Kills Four in Pakistan

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droneAbout 3 a.m. local time, two Hellfire missiles were fired by a U.S. Predator Drone at a house in Pakistan on Friday morning, killing four people suspected of being members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

The target of Friday's strike was a building in Miranshah, the largest town in the North Waziristan area, designated by the U.S. government as a compound in use by the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Eyewitnesses report that the missiles caused a fire that destroyed the entire structure.

Early reports indicate that three alleged “militants” were killed by the drone, while four others were wounded, one or more of whom was a foreigner. Statements made by anonymous agents of the Pakistani government indicate that the missiles destroyed the house while those inside were asleep.

Although Pakistan has called on the United States to cease the drone attacks within that country, the Obama administration has ignored this request. In fact, the number of drones in the air, missiles fired by them, and the body count all continue increasing exponentially under orders issued by Barack Obama.

The government of Pakistan castigates its erstwhile ally for the prosecution of the Predator program, calling it an overt attack on the country’s sovereignty. However, other credible reports from inside the government indicate that while the official stance of Pakistan is to denounce the attacks, behind the scenes they have taken another tack — allowing drones to launch from Pakistani airbases and providing intelligence to help track targets.

Pakistan’s cooperative posture might be slouching lately, however, after the death of two Pakistani soldiers deployed along that nation’s border with Afghanistan. In all, at least 24 Pakistani soldiers have been killed by drones deployed in American airstrikes. Pakistan responded by shutting down the pipeline of NATO materiel that runs through the country, as well as booting the United States and its Predator drones off of an airbase in the southwest region of the country.

The move proved to be little more than an inconvenience, as the base was used by the United States only to repair planes and Predators damaged in Afghanistan. For Pakistan, though, the opposition is likely indicative of a more long-term policy shift. In fact, the nation’s parliament is now embroiled in lengthy debates about their support for the drone program going forward.

On Thursday, officials of the government of Pakistan called for talks with the United States to commence before the debates in parliament are wrapped up.

On Tuesday, President Obama and Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met at a nuclear summit in Seoul and reportedly "made important progress" in resolving the concerns of both sides regarding the continuing alliance in the tracking, targeting, and eliminating of those accused by the United States of being members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda.

The next day, American military commanders of the now decade-long conflict in Afghanistan met with colleagues from the Pakistani armed forces to discuss the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers last November. 

For its part, the United States is loathe to reduce the use of drones in its campaign against suspected “militants,” given the refusal of the government of Pakistan to allow the U.S. military to put boots on the ground in North Waziristan to combat the forces they accuse of using the region as a headquarters for attacks on American military units stationed across the border in Afghanistan.

A recent piece published by the Associated Press describes the situation on the border:

The most important group is the Haqqani network, considered the most dangerous militant faction fighting the U.S. in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has argued that it can't conduct an offensive in North Waziristan because its troops are stretched too thin by operations against militants within the country who threaten its own government.

But many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target the Haqqani network and its allies in the Afghan Taliban because they are seen as important allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.

Historically, Pakistan has maintained a close relationship with both these organizations. So intimately intertwined are Pakistan and these groups, in fact, that the United States has repeatedly accused the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, of providing crucial intelligence and other support of the groups’ assaults on American interests in the region.

Despite billions being spent by the United States in purchasing the good will and the assistance of Pakistan in its “War on Terror,” experts insist that nothing has really changed and that Pakistan persists in its surreptitious support of terrorists.

In reality, there is little chance that the United States will discontinue or even decrease its use of the unmanned drones in the targeting and killing of those branded as enemies of the state.

Take, for example, the “success” of the Obama administration’s use of drones in the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. Anwar al-Awlaki was an American, and so was his 16-year-old son. Neither of them was charged with any crime. 

Awlaki was placed on the President’s infamous kill list after he was suspected of influencing the Ft. Hood shooter, Major Nidal Hassan, as well as the so-called Underwear Bomber, Umar Abdulmutallab. No official charges were ever filed against the American-born cleric. The government never attempted to apprehend him and try him for his alleged atrocities. He was placed on a proscription list and murdered.

The hit reportedly went down like this: On September 30, 2011, while Anwar al-Awlaki had stopped to eat breakfast, two unmanned Predator drones fired Hellfire missiles, killing him. Two weeks later, his son Abdulrahaman was killed in similar manner. No charges. No trial. No due process. 

In the post-NDAA era into which the United States has now entered, the government has assumed all power over life and death and has passed law after law and innumerable volumes of regulations that legalize that usurpation. In this nation today, every man, woman, and child (including unborn children) are required by force of law to appeal to the ultimate arbiter of the right to life for their continuing existence. Should they fail to adequately demonstrate the requisite level of obsequiousness, then their life, liberty, and property may be confiscated without recourse and seemingly without remorse on the part of those carrying out the sentence.

Earlier this year, President Obama confirmed for the first time that American drones are being used to kill suspected militants living in Pakistan. Otherwise, the policy of the White House is not to discuss the covert operations in use against terrorists.

According to a report published by the New America Foundation, drone strikes have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people in Pakistan since 2004.

Photo of U.S. Predator Drone: AP Images

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