No effective response

By: Huma Yusuf  

ISI CHIEF Lt Gen Shuja Pasha was en route from America to Pakistan after meeting the CIA director when drone strikes in South Waziristan killed four militants. The timing of the strikes was unfortunate, following reports that Pakistan had asked the US to limit its drone programme.

Not surprisingly, the Pakistani reaction to the latest strikes was histrionic: the prime minister railed against them in parliament; Shahbaz Sharif called for a rejection of civilian aid from the US, arguing that Pakistani blood cannot be bought with dollars, and the media accused the US of mocking Pakistan’s request. Despite these dramatics, it is unlikely that the US will heed Pakistan’s request for a suspension or curtailment of the drone programme. To truly change thinking on this issue, Pakistan will have to adopt a far more nuanced and dispassionate approach, one that is based on fact and legal frameworks rather than furore.

Ever since army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani described drone attacks as “acts of violence”, Pakistanis have believed that their unified outrage can coerce the US into suspending the strikes. But the consensus in Washington is that the drones are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

There are several reasons for American adamancy on this issue. The programme ostensibly targets militants involved in the Afghan insurgency who seek sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The strikes thus boost the morale of US troops in Afghanistan who can pursue militants until the Durand Line, but no further.

Moreover, US policymakers subscribe to a narrative that suggests the drone strikes have tacit support among the terrorised Fata population. Building off the analyses of several Fata-based journalists (as well as commentary by David Rohde, the New York Times reporter who spent seven months in Taliban captivity) Americans counter criticism of the drone programme saying that Fata residents value the strikes: they cause less collateral damage than the Pakistan Army’s conventional bombing tactics, and they’ve disrupted a variety of militant operations.

Indeed, for fear of drone strikes, militants conduct shorter training sessions with fewer recruits, avoid using satellite phones, travel shorter distances and keep a lower profile. Noting this, some in Washington write off anger against the drone programme as the shortsightedness of Pakistanis who don’t have to deal with the daily trauma of Taliban occupation the way Fata inhabitants must.

There are other strategic calculations at play too. The US still believes that a Pakistan Army operation against militants in North Waziristan is necessary. The drone programme could be used as leverage in this context — its curtailment or suspension could be offered in exchange for army action.

There’s also an institutional angle. As part of the budget deal struck recently to avert a US government shutdown, funding for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund has been transferred from the State Department to the Department of Defence (DoD),
which originally controlled the fund, but had conceded it to the State Department to ensure more civilian oversight of foreign military assistance programmes. To accommodate budget cuts, the fund is now back with the DoD.

This means that the US-Pakistan relationship, at its logistical core, is a military-to-military interaction. This dynamic reinforces the transactional tone of the bilateral relationship, and privileges security concerns over civilian considerations.

With the DoD once again controlling a significant aspect of the US-Pakistan exchange, one can imagine that the emphasis will be on achieving security targets through the drone programme, with less patience for civilian grievances about casualties and sovereignty.

Finally, there is a perception that Pakistan’s drone fury is actually a test of US trust than a talking point. US officials have revealed that Pakistan has asked for advance notice of drone strikes. Since pre-intelligence requires the US to trust that Pakistani intelligence officials will not tip off the targets, the request is seen as a way to evaluate the state of the ISI-CIA relationship after recent bruising.

In response, Pakistani leaders’ protestations against drones have to be more innovative than emotive. Bemoaning civilian casualties is less effective, since these are believed to have been reduced. Plus, Maj Gen Ghayur Mehmood as in charge of troops in North Waziristan admitted recently that the majority of those killed by drones are terrorists.

Rather than bicker about numbers, Pakistan should demand transparency and propose a legal framework that forces the US to own the programme and clarify who can be targeted. According to the New America Foundation, most victims are low-level militants (between 600 and 1,000 people were killed in 118 drone strikes in 2010, but only a dozen were described as militant leaders). Islamabad should push Washington to confine the programme to high-value targets, and then seek a definition of the same. Is a valid target an enemy combatant? Or simply a hostile actor beyond the reach of conventional law-enforcement?

Ultimately, Pakistan’s drone debate needs consistency and clarity. If the argument is that the drones aren’t effective (despite a sharp escalation of strikes in 2010, there were more than 50 suicide attacks across the country) Pakistan should draft a more compelling counterterrorism strategy. If the genuine complaint is civilian casualties, then Islamabad should stop requesting a transfer of drone technology, since people will die no matter who runs the programme. And if this is about national sovereignty, then Pakistan should prepare for a tough conversation about how military and civilian aid also undermine self-jurisdiction.

*The writer is the Pakistan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, DC.

NOTE:This is a cross post from DAWN NEWS>

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  • Shaheen  On April 20, 2011 at 1:42 am

    Yasmin, more boggling is K retreat from Sui?

    I agree with the writer( and a bit of Sharif ) that we can overcome. But…our corropt leadership will not allow it! The poverty in the rural araes is unbelivable, Frightening !

  • Intellectus Motiva  On April 20, 2011 at 4:45 am

    Huma Yusuf is what I would call a house nigger, in other words, the slave that is in love with the master. She is not field nigger, the slave that hates the master. It is the house nigger that is the problem for the rest of the slave population, because that slave acts as an enforcer for the master against the rest of the slaves.

  • Inam Khan  On April 20, 2011 at 8:10 am

    This begs a question:Which is better, to kill the so called militants or losing your dear ones at the hands of suicide bombers???…………………….Inam Khan

  • Parvez Amin  On April 20, 2011 at 10:49 am

    You have missed an important fact: the US has no right to be in Afghanistan or Pakistan for that matter.

    Nevertheless, Pakistan can and should stand on its own feet and shoot down a few drones – which incidentally it is quite capable of doing. That should convince the US that we really mean business and will serve as a credible warning shot ‘across the bow’. As my elders used to say, ‘Laton keh bhoot baton say naheen mantay’.

    If they cut off aid, then so be it. They will wish that they had not done so.

    • Javed Chaudhry  On April 21, 2011 at 12:56 am

      t is true, shooting down the drone is not a problem – it’s a piece of cake. But the American servants in Pakistan, the chief of military brass as well the civilian administration cannot dare to do it. How can they do such a thing against their masters in Washington?
      The US had the UN blessings to invade Afghanistan, not Pakistan. By now every one including all in the UN realize that the Bush administration had fooled the whole world including the UN. Now the world knows that 9/11 had nothing to do with Bin Laden or Al-Qaeda. In fact there is no such thing as Al-Qaeda other than a story put together by CIA to dupe the world. Every deception works for a short time – as we say in Pakistan – one cannot keep cooking in the wooden pot for ever.
      The real culprits to bring death and disaster to Pakistan, its people and its economy are the rulers – Gen Kyani is no doubt part of the ruling elite, in fact, he is the one keeping Zardari and Gilani in the office per the instructions from Washington.
      Had there been real leaders in Pakistan, they would have told the US to stop the monkey business in Pakistan assertively and copied the UN and the rest of the world on it. Then they would go and shoot down the drones. It is simple as that.
      But then, you need true leaders for that, not that NRO crew.


      • A Malik  On April 21, 2011 at 12:56 am

        If the Military intervenes the people do not like it and if it does not it still gets exposed to criticism. Any way out??
        No doubt what has been written reflects an average Pakistanis view – but shall we recall the so called accident /crash of Aiirchief Marshal Mushaf Mir who was totally opposed to drones and provision of Air fieds for the purpose

  • Intellectus Motiva  On April 20, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Remember huma, this started before 911, and 911 was done by the US you amrika ka ghulam….

  • Pervez  On April 21, 2011 at 12:57 am

    It seems to me that now that the cat is out of the bag, we can look forward to some serious changes. So far, the ‘servants’, whomsoever they may be, ours or theirs, have been hiding behind cloaks of secrecy – this time is post Wikileaks and the game has changed. I think the choices our servants have are dwindling. The time is nigh, to stand up and act like a man – or be laughed off the stage, tail between legs.

    Kind regards,
    Parvez Amin

  • Pervez  On April 21, 2011 at 12:58 am

    The military should not intervene on its own – there are several ways that they can be authorized to do so. These ways take time, but then, what is the rush?

    • Javed Chaudhry  On April 21, 2011 at 1:00 am

      I do not believe the issue is how it can be or should be done. The question is:

      Are those people who hold high offices have any interest in doing any thing about it and what have they done other than the lip service?

      Do you think they have Pakistan’s interest on mind or their personal interests?

      The wikiLeaks and Woodward book tell us plenty about the ruling elite. Let us say, WikiLeaks and Woodword book statements are not true – do you find the ruling elite has provided a proof that refutes the above mentioned documents. In fact, the antics of the ruling elite support those documents very strongly.


  • Javed Chaudhry  On April 21, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Malik Sahib
    The criticism is not leveled for the fun of it. The civilians have given the authority to the military to deal with security of the country including FATA. What is holding them back and why can they not do what needs to be done?
    The ISI director recently visited Washington to ask them to reduce the number of drone attacks. What a joke. Are they telling us that 90 attacks in a year are acceptable but a figure of100 is a bit too much?

    Malik sahib, you can take a pick and criticize the person, that, in your opinion deserves it – the idea is the drone business has to stop. Who do you think should be doing some thing to put an end to it? Why is he/they not doing it.

    Can the US do this any where else? No, only where it has its own puppets installed. Now please name the puppet who deserves the criticism.


    • S.U.Turkman  On April 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm

      Oh sure. Like Civilian Government has any authority to tell Army what to do.
      Mr. Chaudry sounds like representative of Taliban on this Forum, who is very upset that Drones are killing too many of his brothers, when all PushToons and Pakistanis are happy that their Enemies are being taken care of by USA.
      Mr. Choudry can we negotiate with you that your Taliban should not kill so many Pakistanis each year and just a few would be enough?

      • Bajwa  On April 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm

        Civilian or Military Government it is rather late in the day.

        Pakistan is overwhelmed by this relationship with US which they sought because of overwhelming presence of India. What a quagmire !


      • Arif Khan  On April 23, 2011 at 2:15 pm

        Mr Turkman /Chowder Sahib
        The message should be simple to the Talibans that If you cause trouble for Pakistan/ Afghanistan or Attack NATO forces who are trying to bring some semblence of Peace and Normalcy to that tortured land,WE will hunt you down and kill you no matter how many strikes it takes?? If you “Dilly Dally” with them and try to stop punishing blows they will get the wrong message and Terrorism will NEVER end in Pakistan?? “As most Pakistanis due to their misplaced beliefs “Are Huntingwith the hounds and running with the hares” This is a Haphazard way of delivering a tough message.. First of all if you have a better answer lets hear it..I know Pathans very well as I am one of them and spent my entire life with them In Burn Hall Abbottabad They only Respect a Tough response or they eat you alive for Breakfast Arif

  • Javed Chaudhry  On April 21, 2011 at 1:01 am

    The US does not care about Pakistan
    Posted: 19 Apr 2011 10:43 AM PDT
    by Rabia Mehmood

    Professor Noam Chomsky sits on the eighth floor of the quirky-looking Stata Center of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, US. Former head of the linguistics department, the author and intellectual now serves as Professor Emeritus at the university.

    The man is known worldwide for his incredibly popular and polarising criticism of American foreign policy.
    “The US doesn’t care about Pakistan, just like the Reagan administration didn’t care about either Afghanistan or Pakistan,” says Chomski, when asked how he sees the relationship between Pakistan and the US. “They supported Zia, the worst dictator in Pakistan’s history, and pretended they didn’t know that Pakistan was developing nuclear weapons. So basically they supported Pakistan’s nuclear weapon programme and radical Islamisation in their bid to defeat the Russians. And that has not helped Pakistan.”
    According to Chomsky, the reason the Pak-US relationship hasn’t worked is because the concern of US planners is not the welfare of Pakistan, it’s the welfare of their own constituency. “But it’s not the people of US either, just the powerful sectors within the US,” he said. “If the US policy towards Pakistan happens to benefit Pakistan it would be kind of accidental. Maybe it will to some extent, but that is not the purpose.”
    Chomsky believes Pakistan has serious internal problems but says there are solutions. But, he insists, these problems have to be solved from within instead of from outside.
    “These problems have to be dealt with inside Pakistan, and not by the US; providing them with massive military aid, carrying out drone strikes, which enrages the population rightly,” he says. “Drone attacks are target assassinations and therefore a crime. Whether they are militants or not, these people are being targeted because the US doesn’t like them. Targeted assassination is an international crime. United Nations’ special rapporteur Philip Alston, a very respected international lawyer, came out with a report which simply says that it is a criminal act.”
    He also supports the 1973 constitution and believes it is suitable for Pakistan. “It looks sensible on paper. It provided a degree of autonomy within a federalised system, which makes sense for a country like Pakistan,” he says. “Devoting resources to education, development and not military will help.”

    Relationship with India
    Speaking about Pakistan’s relationship and outlook towards India, he said that the Pakistani military has a strategic doctrine that they have to have a military presence in Afghanistan to counter India. “That’s a losing proposition because Pakistan cannot compete with India in terms of military force. Besides, the strategic position in Afghanistan doesn’t really mean anything in case of a war,” he says. “Pakistan has undoubtedly supported terrorist groups in Kashmir and terrorism in India, which has made the situation worse.”
    The Americans are avoiding the Kashmir issue, he says, which is central to the resolution of conflict in South Asia. “India has a very ugly record in Kashmir – horrible atrocities, fraudulent elections, most militarised place in the world. You can’t just ignore it,” he says.

    US-India relations
    Professor Chomsky says that it is a “joke” when US talks about giving aid for civilian nuclear facilities in India. “The aid for the civilian nuclear use can be easily transferred to military use. By granting India the right to import US nuclear technology, it has not only allowed India to freely develop nuclear weapons, the US has also violated the nuclear non-proliferation treaty,” he says.

    Afghan war’s future
    “It is a complicated situation but I think there is good evidence that the US military and political structures recognise that they cannot have a military victory,” Chomsky says.

    However, he says, they [US] can conquer whatever they like, but the Russians also won every battle in the 1980s but eventually lost the war. “The Americans are therefore trying to find a way to extricate themselves in some fashion, that it can be presented as a victory. They don’t want to admit they’ve lost the war, like the Russians.”

    Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2011.

  • Arif Khan  On April 23, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Chaudhry Sahib,,Forget about Personal Love and care? Not even Saudi Arabia loves You forget about America who has absolutely NOTHING in Commonwith a Typical Balli Type Pak… Its about Common interest,,,Why should anyone even LIKE Pakisatn who is the Epicenter of Terrorist activity for not only the region but the entire World..God Forfid If tomorrow there was No Pakisatn 50% of the Worlds issues would be solved and if that Stupid Israel gave Palestinian their much deserved HOMELAND 90% of World problems would Vanish Arif

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