The US is intensifying its drone attacks in the Federally
Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, as
the Pakistani army prepares a major military operation against Islamist
militants in North Waziristan.
|Drone over Pakistan|
The latest attack on Friday
involved missile strikes from CIA-controlled drones on three separate
locations in North Waziristan. According to unnamed Pakistani
intelligence officials, 18 “suspected militants” were killed. As in
previous attacks, most casualties would undoubtedly have been civilians,
including women and children.
The Associated Press reported
that the strikes came just minutes apart on mud brick compounds located
several kilometres from each other in the Shawal Valley. The area is
mountainous and heavily forested, and serves as a crossing point into
Afghanistan for insurgent groups opposed to the US-led occupation.
Citing local tribesmen, the Pakistani newspaper, News International,
reported: “The people who helped retrieve the bodies from the debris of
the collapsed buildings said all the bodies had been burnt and torn
into pieces. They said the bodies were beyond recognition.” Some 14
injured people were taken to local health facilities, where doctors
reported that most were in a critical condition.
attacks, in blatant violation of Pakistani sovereignty, came less than
24 hours after Islamabad had issued a formal protest to an unnamed
senior American diplomat over attacks earlier in the week. A Pakistani
foreign ministry spokesman described the drone strikes as “illegal and
unproductive” during a press briefing last Friday.
simply ignored the protest—the eighth in the 12 months—as the Pakistani
government and military give their tacit approval to the drone strikes.
The formal protests are a threadbare attempt by the government to
placate widespread public anger, especially in the FATA region, over the
relentless US attacks.
At least four CIA drone attacks took
place last week in North Waziristan. On August 18, drone missiles struck
an alleged militant hideout, killing at least five people claimed to be
allies of a local warlord, Hafiz Gul Bahadur. The following day, US
drones fired missiles, killing 10 “suspected militants” in two separate
Another strike took place on Tuesday last week. US and
Pakistani officials claimed on Saturday that Badruddin Haqqani, the head
of operations for the Haqqani network, had been killed in the attack. A
senior Pakistani intelligence official told Reuters that Badruddin had
fled a compound after it was hit by a missile but was killed by a second
drone strike on a car in which he was travelling. An Haqqani militia
spokesman denied that Badruddin was dead.
The Haqqani network is
just one of the tribal militias waging war in neighbouring Afghanistan
against the US-led occupation. Badruddin is believed to have
masterminded several high-profile attacks in Kabul, including one on
embassies and the parliament in April that lasted for 18 hours. While
the US State Department has branded most of the Haqqani leaders
individually as “global terrorists,” it has yet to designate the network
as a whole as a terrorist organisation, as that would preclude ongoing
attempts to establish negotiations.
Washington has long demanded
that the Pakistani army launch a military offensive in North
Waziristan, along the lines of its brutal operations in other FATA
agencies. In 2009, the military sent 30,000 troops, backed by war planes
and heavy artillery, into South Waziristan, forcing hundreds of
thousands of people to flee. The US has accused the Pakistani military
of refusing to do the same in North Waziristan in order to protect
relations between the Haqqani network and the military’s Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI) agency—claims that have not been substantiated.
between the US and Pakistan were severely strained by the unilateral US
attack deep inside Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011,
followed by US airstrikes last November that killed 24 Pakistani
soldiers. Facing a public outcry, Islamabad shut down NATO supply routes
through Pakistan to Afghanistan.
The Pakistani government is in
deep crisis after the Supreme Court’s removal of Yousuf Raza Gilani as
prime minister in June for failing to ask Swiss authorities to reopen
corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari. His replacement,
Raja Pervez Ashraf, also faces removal for refusing to do the same.
the Pakistani government and the military are heavily dependent on
Washington. The standoff over the NATO supply routes ended with the
reopening of the routes last month. The US extracted other concessions,
including Pakistan turning a blind eye to escalating drone strikes and
tentative agreement from its military to start an offensive into North
Waziristan. These military operations will fuel popular resentment,
further destabilising the country.
Pakistani military officials
have said operations would only slowly increase pressure on militants in
North Waziristan, unlike its massive offensives in other FATA areas.
Local residents told the Dawn newspaper that hundreds of
foreign fighters from Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan and
Tajikistan were fleeing the area late last week in anticipation of
The intensified US drone attacks inside
Pakistan are aimed at terrorising the local population and pressing the
Pakistani military to go ahead with its offensive. Local residents told News International
after last Friday’s strike that they feared trying to rescue survivors
as drones kept circling. Rescuers and those attending funeral services
have been targeted previously for attack on the basis that they are also
An extraordinary article in the New York Times
in May revealed that President Obama is personally involved in the
decisions to carry out the targeted assassinations of individuals inside
Pakistan, as well as other countries. The revelation underscores the
criminal character of the Obama administration and its neo-colonial
operations in Afghanistan.
According to one estimate, there have
been 33 drone strikes inside Pakistan this year, down from 117 in 2010
and 64 in 2011. As the Obama administration prepares for the withdrawal
of US combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, it will
undoubtedly step up its murderous attacks in both Afghanistan and
Pakistan in order to shore up its puppet regime in Kabul.