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Drone attacks and US reputation — by Farhat Taj

In terms of the drone attacks, the US must not make any distinction between al Qaeda and the Taliban. They both have internalised a global ideology that is anti-civilisation and anti-human

There is news coming up in the media that al Qaeda in Waziristan may run away to Yemen in the face of growing drone attacks. The people of Waziristan have expressed deep concern at this news. They do not want al Qaeda to run away from Waziristan. They want al Qaeda along with the Taliban burnt to ashes on the soil of Waziristan through relentless drone attacks. The drone attacks, they believe, are the one and only ‘cure’ for these anti-civilisation creatures and the US must robustly administer them the ‘cure’ until their existence is annihilated from the world. The people of Waziristan, including tribal leaders, women and religious people, asked me to convey in categorical terms to the US the following in my column.

One, your new drone attack strategy is brilliant, i.e. one attack closely followed by another. After the first attack the terrorists cordon off the area and none but the terrorists are allowed on the spot. Another attack at that point kills so many of them. Excellent! Keep it up!

Your drone technology has the full capacity to encircle and eliminate al Qaeda and the Taliban in Waziristan. If you fail to do so and al Qaeda manages to run away to Yemen or any other place, it could only happen in two cases: either you are highly incompetent people or you have ulterior motives.

The people who have established one of the world’s most vibrant democracies and have taken science and technology to a new zenith cannot be highly incompetent. Now the only possibility is that you have ulterior motives, which could facilitate al Qaeda’s escape from Waziristan.

In a sense the ISI of Pakistan and the CIA of the US share a sinister reputation: both use fanatic Islamists to promote strategic goals. The Taliban are the strategic assets of the ISI and al Qaeda of the CIA. Terrorised people in FATA believe that the ISI would never eliminate the Taliban for the sake of strategic depth in Afghanistan and countless people across the Muslim world believe that al Qaeda is a CIA invention to trigger chaos in Muslim lands and hence create excuses for the US to control natural resources such as oil and gas in those lands. There is also a perception in FATA and the rest of Pakistan that the US is especially going soft on Islamists from the restive Muslim areas of China. Those Islamists would be used to destabilise China, the emerging rival to the US in world politics.

Here in Waziristan the US has a good opportunity to prove to the Muslim world that it is indeed serious in eliminating al Qaeda. The escape of al Qaeda from Waziristan to Yemen or any other Muslim country would communicate the message that the US is an imperial power that just ‘relocates’ its strategic assets from one Muslim society to another only to destabilise them and hence paves the way for US military intervention in those areas.

In terms of the drone attacks, the US must not make any distinction between al Qaeda and the Taliban. They both have internalised a global ideology that is anti-civilisation and anti-human. They will keep coming back to strike at civilisations — Islamic, Western, Confucian or Indian. The sooner the world gets rid of them the better.

This was the view of the people of Waziristan. I would now draw the attention of the US to the Peshawar Declaration, a joint statement of political parties, civil society organisations, businessmen, doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, labourers and intellectuals, following a conference on December 12-13, 2009, in Peshawar. The declaration notes that if the people of the war-affected areas are satisfied with any counter-militancy strategy; it is drone attacks that they support the most. Some people in Waziristan compare drones with the Quran’s Ababeels — the holy sparrows sent by God to avenge Abraham, the intended conqueror of the Khana Kaaba. Which other Muslim society has likened anything from the US military with a Quranic symbol? Only the Pakhtuns did that so publicly in this time of rising anti-Americanism across the Muslim world! What more does the US want from a Muslim society? Now please go ahead and do the needful as indicated by the people of Waziristan.

The overpowered people of Waziristan are angry. They believe no one in their entire history has inflicted so much insult on them as al Qaeda. In our native land, they say, al Qaeda has killed so many of us. Anyone in the world who has gone mad in the name of religion has come to occupy our land. They are Arabs, Central Asians, Caucasians and Africans. They are people with black, brown, blue and green eyes. They are brown, black and white. They all have chosen our land for their sinister designs against all civilisations. No self-respecting people, they argue, can accept this situation.

The ball is now in the US’s court. Their action or inaction against the terrorists in Waziristan would either confirm their image in the Muslim world as an imperial power destabilising Muslim societies in the name of the war on terror or would challenge that image, at least in FATA and the NWFP, the Muslim society on the frontline of the war on terror. The people of Waziristan hope the US challenges that image through the elimination of all terrorists — al Qaeda or the Taliban — in Waziristan.

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. She can be reached at bergen34@yahoo.com

Source: Daily Times

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  • I like many other support Army action against the militants and that they should be brought to justice for kiling our women and children. Tell me the name of one Pakistani analyst or politician who thinks that the TTP are doing the right thing?

  • Secrets, spies and lies
    By Irfan Husain
    Saturday, 20 Feb, 2010

    The truth about drone attacks, training of FC by the Americans, the arrest Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Quetta Shura, the Kerry-Lugar bill and many other issues have been hidden from the public which in turn whips up anti-American sentiments. – File photo
    OBTAINING the truth from governments is not unlike yanking out healthy teeth firmly attached to the jaw: both cause acute pain and resistance.

    Take the recent judgment in Britain that forced the government to reveal details of the torture that Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British resident, went through following his arrest in Pakistan after 9/11. Held in American custody in a number of countries for seven years, he ended up in Guantanamo from where he was finally released last year without being charged.

    The British government argued that revealing such sensitive information might endanger the intelligence-sharing arrangement it has with the United States. However, for once their lordships were not having any of this routine foot-dragging, and ordered the release of the information.

    In Pakistan, the state routinely classifies the most mundane documents as ‘secret’, and insists on keeping the public in the dark. Loftily, government functionaries inform us that while we must foot the bill, we are not grown up enough to know the truth. More often than not, these clandestine policies blow up in our face, and ordinary Pakistanis are left paying the cost in money and in lives.

    For years, the Pakistani establishment has played a double game in Afghanistan, and when the Taliban genie escaped from the bottle and began slaughtering innocent Pakistanis, we blamed everybody but our own army and intelligence services. Every country has secrets, but we have raised the art of denial to new levels of dissimulation.

    Take the American policy of taking out their Taliban and Al Qaeda foes in Pakistan by using highly advanced drone technology. This has been going on for the last several years with the clandestine knowledge and approval of both the Musharraf and Zardari governments. And yet, every time a drone launches a missile that kills militants (and civilians, unfortunately), there is a hue and cry in Pakistan. The government lodges a complaint with the US, and the media goes into a frenzy of American-bashing.

    Nobody is willing to face the fact that more often than not, these drones are launched from a base located within Pakistan. This was publicly declared by an American senator who is a member of the Senate intelligence committee. No Pakistani official contradicted her, and yet everybody from Zardari downwards keeps protesting every time a drone attack takes place.

    Similarly, we have American Special Forces training units of the Frontier Corps in counter-insurgency tactics, but the public remains largely unaware of this programme. It was only when three American soldiers were killed in Fata that the media reported their presence.

    Recently, when Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the second-in-command of the Afghan Taliban, was captured in Karachi, the interior minister referred to the report as ‘propaganda’. The question of how long our government was aware of Baradar’s presence has gone unanswered as we denied that the Quetta shura even existed on our soil.

    These lies and contradictions have served to confuse the Pakistani public, and to whip up anti-American sentiment. After 9/11, Musharraf did a public U-turn and denounced the Taliban, offering the Americans help in toppling them. Much of the framework for covert joint operations was laid down in those early days, but fearing a backlash from his clerical allies in the coalition that supported him, Musharraf chose to keep most of this military and intelligence cooperation secret.

    Under the army’s pressure, Zardari has chosen to continue with Musharraf’s policy of secrecy and prevarication. By insisting that Pakistan plays no part in the drone campaign, for instance, the government seeks to deflect criticism for any civilian casualties to the Americans. This is both shameless and irresponsible. The reality is that the death-by-drones of so many militants in the tribal areas is something that is to our advantage.

    By not owning up to a policy in which we are both partners and beneficiaries, we have made it clear that we are unable or unwilling to exercise control over our soil. Indeed, by playing victim instead of a state defending its own people against terrorists, we send out a signal of weakness.

    How would we be any worse off by adopting a more open posture? The received wisdom in both Washington and Islamabad is that somehow, public knowledge of Pakistan’s complicity in the drone campaign would destabilise the civilian government. While this may be true today, it surely was not so under Musharraf when the army was very much onside, as it is today.

    The reality is that both Musharraf and Zardari have been heavily criticised by the Islamic parties and politicians for their pro-American policies. How would anything change if Zardari were to take the public into confidence? Such a policy of openness would enable the government to proceed without having to go into contortions each time a drone attack is launched.

    Currently, the public perception is that the Americans are acting unilaterally, and ignoring Pakistan’s sovereignty. Understandably, this whips up anger each time a Predator or Reaper missile kills militants, as well as the women and children they were hiding behind.

    We have seen this anti-Americanism flourish in our media over the years. At the time of the debate (or what passed for one) over the Kerry-Lugar bill, many TV anchors and guests on Urdu channels joined the army-led chorus against this legislation. In a barely literate society where the electronic media plays a key role in forming perceptions, our Urdu TV channels have much to answer for.

    By refusing to acknowledge the degree of cooperation between the US and Pakistani army and intelligence agencies, we end up only confusing our people as well as looking incompetent and hypocritical in the eyes of the world. The drone campaign is a solid success by any yardstick. In fact, apart from our army operations in Swat and South Waziristan, it is the only military riposte to have kept the militants on the run. Surely, we should take part of the credit for locating many of the targets.

    We need to know who our friends and foes are. And anybody condoning the actions of the terrorists who have killed thousands of innocent Pakistanis is not our friend.

    irfan.husain@gmail.com

    http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/13+secrets,-spies-and-lies-020-za-04