Saturday, April 4, 2009

Drone Attacks in a Proper Socio-Political Context

Here's a Pakistani defense of American drone missile attacks on Taliban targets within Pakistan, in the event concerning the recent attack in Orakzai:

It was discovered that the local Orakzai population had given in [to the Taliban] after the slaughter of their anti-TTP “jirga” last year did not evoke much response from the army or the state of Pakistan.

When asked if the drone attack in Orakzai will provoke the local population into becoming anti-American, the Pashtun reporters told the TV channels that unless collateral damage became widespread enough to include the local population, there was no chance of an anti-American feeling. They said that the population was completely under the despotic rule of the TTP and would actually want the drone attacks to continue to lessen the severity of TTP control on them. Had Pakistan any sovereignty left to counteract the TTP, the local population would have fought against the terrorists....

This evidence weakens the argument we have heard advanced against the American drone attacks. A Peshawar-based NGO has come under pressure from the authorities and the media for discovering exactly what was revealed by the TV reporters on Wednesday night. The Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy (AIRRA) published an article recently (The News, March 5, 2009) which stated that its teams visited Wana (South Waziristan), Ladda (South Waziristan), Miranshah (North Waziristan), Razmak (North Waziristan) and Parachinar (Kurram Agency) and found that the victim population was not opposed to drone attacks.

One can begin to imagine a possible strategy here based on a combination that has so far been hard to implement--presence and consideration:

  • Pakistani military support for the local population
  • economic aid to the local population
  • extreme care in the use of drones
  • careful coordination of military action with the local population.

To summarize, can Washington and Islamabad figure out a way to establish a reliable physical presence on the ground and behave with consideration toward the local population? In this context, any number of possible steps come to mind, e.g.:

  • Having the police guard girls' schools in the tribal regions;
  • Explaining drone attacks;
  • Investigating the results immediately in coordination with local officials;
  • Insuring a permanent government presence in all villages for both security and social services;
  • Paying for the rebuilding of homes destroyed in government attacks;
  • Providing social services rapidly for internal refugees.

This is exactly the opposite of what seems typically to happen: occasional, unreliable presence combined with the thoughtless application of force, so that the local population not only fails to receive security but also is threatened by the government forces supposedly sent to save it.

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