Sunday, May 03, 2009

U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan 'backfiring,' Congress told

U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan 'backfiring,' Congress told
Predator missile strikes aimed at Al Qaeda often go astray, enraging the people and threatening the Islamabad government, top military advisor testifies.
Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2009

David Kilcullen is no soft-headed peacenik.

He's a beefy, 41-year-old former Australian army officer who served in Iraq as a top advisor to U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus. He's one of the counter-insurgency warrior/theorists who designed Petraeus' successful "surge" of troops into the streets of Baghdad.

But a few days ago, when a congressman asked Kilcullen what the U.S. government should do in Pakistan, the Australian guerrilla fighter sounded like an antiwar protester.

"We need to call off the drones," Kilcullen said.

In the arid valleys of western Pakistan, the United States is fighting a strange, long-distance war against Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their Pakistani allies. Unmanned "drone" airplanes take off from secret runways, seek out suspected terrorists and, with CIA employees at the remote controls, fire missiles to blow them up.

Officially, this is a covert program, and the CIA won't acknowledge that it's going on at all. Unofficially, intelligence officials say the Predator strikes are the most effective weapon they have against Al Qaeda.

President Obama has embraced an escalation in the raids that was approved by his predecessor, George W. Bush, last summer. The CIA has carried out at least 16 Predator strikes in Pakistan in the first four months of this year, compared with 36 strikes in all of 2008. The missile strikes have killed about 161 people since Obama's inauguration, according to news reports from Pakistan; there's no way of knowing how many of those were civilians.

Only one problem: Kilcullen says the missile strikes are backfiring.

Kilcullen's objection to the U.S. strategy isn't moral (he doesn't mind killing "bad guys") or legal (most legal scholars consider "targeted killing" acceptable under the law of war because Al Qaeda and the Taliban are at war with the United States). Kilcullen's objection is practical. He says the strikes are creating more enemies than they eliminate.

"I realize that they do damage to the Al Qaeda leadership," he told the House Armed Services Committee. But that, he said, was not enough to justify the program. "Since 2006, we've killed 14 senior Al Qaeda leaders using drone strikes; in the same time period, we've killed 700 Pakistani civilians in the same area. The drone strikes are highly unpopular. They are deeply aggravating to the population. And they've given rise to a feeling of anger that coalesces the population around the extremists and leads to spikes of extremism. ... The current path that we are on is leading us to loss of Pakistani government control over its own population."

For complete article, click here

1 comment:

Vivian said...

Pakistan Grapples With Energy Crisis
by Vivian Salama
The National

LAHORE // Daylight saving is still a new concept for many in Pakistan, so when the clocks turned ahead one hour last week, it would take another day or two for it to catch on across the country. Chronic power shortages drove the government last year to introduce this energy-cutting measure after riots across the country by citizens who, at the worst, endured blackouts for as long as 18 hours per day.
The government directive goes beyond the time change. Markets and shopping plazas are asked to close by 9pm daily and to change their weekly holiday to Friday instead of Sunday, since many here spend Friday at the mosque. Billboards are not to use lights during the summer months, and air conditioners should be turned off from 8am to 11am.

Pakistan’s power problems do not stem from overuse but from supply. The country’s per capita consumption is approximately one-fifth of the global average, according to the South Asia Association for Regional Co-operation. Despite its success developing a nuclear weapons programme, Pakistan has failed to build enough power plants to keep up with the demand for electricity.
Between 2003 and 2007, electricity sales rose by about 40 per cent in Pakistan, with two-thirds of domestic households connecting to the grid, the World Bank says. While demand grew sharply, the generating capacity remained virtually unchanged. The surpluses that were available a few years ago quickly disappeared. Now, the system faces a deficit of more than 2,000 megawatts that is expected to grow at the rate of seven per cent to eight per cent annually.