Afghanistan

Unmanned drones in Pakistani cities?

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.

4 replies »

  1. “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.”

    – War is not about morality. In a war, you do not respect sovereignity of a nation that harbours terrorists. And when terrorists are allowed to hide amongst the civilians, then there will always be collateral damage.

    “Are we really heading down the road of chasing terrorists across the globe with drones?”

    – No…chasing them is the responsibility of the nations that have them within their borders. We will attack them when we know their whereabouts, when those nations will not act.

    Your talk of “building real partnership” and “need to stem the growth of terrorist networks” is too late, irrelevant and irresponsible, in the current scenario of AfPak war.

    You need to concentrate in preventing another disaster like the terrorist breeding infrastructure of Pakistan

    • Thanks so much for the comment, Neel123. It’s a fair point that war is not about morality. As referenced in the post and linked article, there is a real strategic cost to the civilian casualties. My very point is to consider not just morality issues, whether its the wrongness of civilian casualties, or a moral high-ground such as “in a war you do not respect sovereignty of a nation that harbors terrorists.” Also it’s important to remember that the US is not at war with Pakistan.

      The drone strikes have been fueling resentment and anger towards the US in Pakistan, which only helps the extremists. This is too high a strategic cost to pay for what we might be getting from the drone operations.

  2. well US has no option but target the terrorist residing in pakistan, and everybody knows many of the targets are selected by the pakistanis, but they are very selective,

    its a war on terror and there will be civilian casualties, and its the pakistani fault they let this terror group settle in civilian area to be used against afgan and indians

    it is obvious the american are now going to increas the theatre of war to include the settled area of pakistn, that is the only reason the pak army has started attacking the tribal area themself as they no if they do not the american will destroy these areas

    rgds

    Richie