Friday, November 26, 2010

Drone Attacks Are Extremely Effective

An editorial from the Nation asking for a cessation of all drone activity within Pakistan’s borders:

One needs to welcome the government decision to ask Washington to stop violating the sovereignty of Pakistan’s airspace with drone strikes conducted with the aim of taking out operatives of militant organisations, who, the US believes, are hiding in North Waziristan Agency. The pity is that the good news has come too late for about 2000 innocent human beings, ordinary men, women and children, who would have been living today, had the political set-up rescinded, immediately on assuming power, the permission Musharraf had granted to the CIA to make these raids.
Setting aside the lie that 2000 civilians were killed by drone attacks, the drone war conducted by NATO in Pakistan’s troublesome FATA region is highly effective and, contrary to what the Nation may say, has minimized civilian casualties, not raise them. I would recommend reading Peter Bergen’s piece in the latest issue of the Atlantic.
But the drone program has drawbacks. Perhaps the most worrisome is civilian casualties. According to our survey of reliable press accounts, about 30 percent of all those killed by drones since 2004 were nonmilitants, though that proportion has been decreasing recently because of better targeting, more intelligence cooperation, and the CIA’s use of smaller missiles. This year (through September), about 8 percent of those killed by drones were reportedly nonmilitants, though U.S. officials claim the rate is more like 2 percent.
Peter Bergen, noted expert on counter-terrorism, has a compiled a count of deaths resulting from drone attacks: the number of civilian casualties compared to militant casualties is very low. And for all the hue and cry by Pakistan about drone attacks, they have given their tacit approval, and then some.
The drones are immensely unpopular in Pakistan, and Pakistani politicians routinely claim that they violate national sovereignty. But many Pakistani officials are privately supportive, and much of the intelligence used to target the strikes comes from Pakistani informants. Indeed, the attacks were almost completely halted in the tribal area of South Waziristan after the Pakistani military launched an offensive there a year ago, suggesting a high degree of Pakistani-American coordination.
There you go. The drone attacks would not be successful without Pakistan’s input. For Pakistan, drone attacks is the lesser evil because the alternative would be much worse: thousands of foreign troops operating within Pakistan’s borders. Which would the Nation prefer?