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Posts Tagged ‘drones’


Droning On and On about…..Drones

   Posted by: Pat    in Uncategorized   Print Print

A couple days ago, I gave my latest views (on my Afghanistan Blog) of the US use of drone assassination attacks, especially their substantial increase of usage by the Obama administration, in Pakistan. I am overall very pro-Drone use, but believe we can overuse them as a strategic tool. Here is a video of some members of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board discussing the issue. They unsurprising are very supportive of their use:

But not everyone agrees. In fact, there are those from both the political left and right who think the Obama administration may be over relying on an imperfect war on terror tool. Marc Thiessen, who worked for the Bush administration and has been very critical of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policies, asserts that the current administration is missing out on valuable intelligence gathering by simply killing off members of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups. Taking a different, more legalistic angle, is the ACLU. Here is a short video expressing some of their concerns about the Drone strikes:

Where do you stand? What are your concerns about the tactic? Is it overall positive or negative?

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CIA Hits the Taliban, the Taliban Hits Back

   Posted by: Pat    in Uncategorized   Print Print


A former intelligence official called it a “high-level asset meeting gone bad.” Bad is definitely an understatement. Of course the comment is in reference to the suicide attack which killed 7 CIA agents at Forward Operating Base Chapman in border province of Khost. They were “experienced frontline officers and their knowledge and expertise will be sorely missed,” said Henry A. Crumpton, who led the CIA campaign in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002. The attacker was a potential informant of the Haqqani network of the Taliban and was wearing an Afghan National Army uniform at the time of the attack. Apparently, the perpetrator made it through one checkpoint and blew himself and several others away before he was to be searched for weapons. The Pakistani and Afghan Taliban have both claimed responsibility for the attack, with one specific Taliban leader stating that the attack was in revenge for CIA-led drone attacks.

This tragic incident highlights numerous issues challenging the US/NATO presence in Afghanistan. First off, it is indeed the nature of the covert intelligence game that one has to trust those who you really cannot trust. The CIA in Afghanistan need to gather information on Al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership and organization and to do this human intelligence is a vital component. After all, the drones don’t just know where the bad guys are hiding by themselves.

This specific incident, which involved a supposed Afghan Army member, also portrays the difficulties in discerning friend from foe. How serious is this issue to the Obama administration’s Afghan strategy? Vital would be an understatement. Key to future stability of Afghanistan, and to a lessening of a foreign military presence, is the growth in size and capability of the Afghan army and police. The Taliban of course know this and will do whatever they can to undermine its progress. A great way to do this is to infiltrate the Afghan army and police ranks with your own soldiers and inflict demoralizing and strategic calamities, such as this Chapman CIA incident and the shooting of five British soldiers by an Afghan police officer last month. Throw in the fact that the Afghan government, and its foreign purse holders, are desperate to build up the Army and police numbers and it should not surprise us that some ‘bad apples’ are mixed into the bunch. If I were the Taliban, this is what I would do.

Nevertheless, in terms of the CIA’s presence in Afghanistan, it is still critical to have an on the ground footprint in Afghanistan’s most volatile southeastern regions. The drone attacks have had a major impact on downgrading the Taliban and Al Qaeda’s leadership and the pressure must be maintained. This likely cannot happen if the CIA has to move out of Khost, Kandahar, etc. It has been reported that the CIA presence in Afghanistan is to increase by about 20-25% along with the surge in US/NATO troops this coming year, but one can bet that this Chapman attack will change some of the calculus on how the agency operates.

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Afghanistan-Pakistan: Negotiations and Drones

   Posted by: Pat    in Uncategorized   Print Print

Tonight I am leading my local Foreign Policy Association’s Great Decision discussion group on the Afghanistan/Pakistan conflict.  My presentation will largely stem from FPA’s Great Decision article written by Afghan expert and US government consultant on Afghanistan, Barnett R. Rubin, and an accompanying video debating the key issues of the conflict.  There will be two main issues we will address during our discussion: Negotiating with the Taliban and US drone-missile attacks inside of Pakistan.

Regarding the first issue, Patrick French, a scholar and with family connections in Pakistan’s Swat region, recently allowed to be ruled by Sharia law by the Paki government, argues that this is a disastrous policy.  He asserts that the Swat settlement was an appeasement of radical Taliban leaders who will continue to foment unrest and violence further and further into the Pakistan. Here is a good summary of his thoughts:

Shariah law has been imposed, allowing elderly clerics to dictate the daily lives of the Swati people. President Zardari’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, describes this as “a local solution to a local problem,” but the deal with the Taliban represents the most serious blow to the country’s territorial integrity since the civil war of 1971, when the land that became Bangladesh was given up. When territory is surrendered in this way, it is very difficult for the state to recover it. The central premise behind the war on terrorism was that extremist groups should not be allowed sanctuaries from which to threaten the rest of the world. In that context, the loss of Swat offers the Taliban and other extremist groups a template for the future.

The Swat deal has ramifications for US negotiations with the Afghan Taliban as the fear of Swat-like appeasement must be watched carefully.  Pakistan’s decision to make a deal with the Swat Taliban seems to have come from a position of weakness, something US military officials already have voiced that would be loathed to do.  Obama’s troop surge may indeed be deployed for the central aim of making some security breakthroughs, where the  Afghan and US government could then negotiate from a more stable, strengthened position.

French’s jarring description of the Paki-Swat deal is a fair warning of the challenges faced in dealing with the Taliban, as there is the real fear that the Taliban will not stop or be appeased, that they will keep on ‘grabbing for land and power.’

The 2nd topical issue is the Obama’s administration’s possible expanding of the range of drone missile attacks inside of Pakistan.  The logic would be to hit and disrupt Taliban elements who are currently enjoying a safe haven deeper inside Pakistan, specifically near Baluchistan, beyond the FATA and Northwest Territories.  This sounds like only a military solution to a military/political problem.  The fact that these Taliban leaders, including Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Omar, can live safely deep inside Pakistan, combined with the Swat deal, is an obvious failure of the Paki government and drone attacks will not solve the problem alone.  I’m sure the US military and government knows this, but they must be careful before they institute such a policy as the drones may slowly erode Taliban strategic elements, and may even lead to the elimination of senior leaders, but they may also undermine the Islamabad government’s legitimacy and could turn more Pakistani civilians, who may be caught in the cross fire, away from moderate forces.

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