For years the US has been sending Predator drones — unnmanned bombers — into remote areas of Pakistan, on the hunt for Taliban and al Qaeda. Even though these raids have been contained within the less populated tribal areas, they have wreaked havoc on the lives of the people who live there, (can you imagine unmanned bombers patrolling the skies above you, looking for targets?) killing hundreds of innocents, and severely testing the Pakistani government’s relationship with the US, and its own people. So it’s particularly alarming that they are now considering expanding the operation to Quetta, a city of a million people.
In case the idea of raiding a major Pakistani city with remote-controlled bombers doesn’t sound insane on it’s face, Robert Dryfuss from the Nation has an excellent piece on it.
But an attack on Quetta, and on the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is something else entirely — and not just because bombing Quetta would probably result in mass civilian casualties.
Why? Because the core of Pakistan’s military elite sees the Afghan Taliban as a strategic asset. The Taliban is Pakistan’s ace-in-the-hole against India’s burgeoning influence in Afghanistan, and they’re not likely to give it up without a fight. By taking on the Taliban’s shura in Quetta, the United States is in effect making the war in Afghanistan a war against both the Taliban and the Pakistani military.
Are we really heading down the road of chasing terrorists across the globe with drones? This raises some obvious moral questions (such as a future of war as video game), but it raises strategic questions too. The drone strikes have severely undermined Pakistan’s government and called its sovereignty into question. The civilian casualties destabilize the communities that are targeted by them, and inflame resentment against the US. And they ultimately make it harder to build the kind of real partnerships we need to stem the growth of terrorist networks.