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Pakistan Drone Story Ignored Military Opposition to Strikes

By Gareth Porter, IPS

Members of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party burn replica of Drone aircraft near Peshawar Press Club on May 14, 2011. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

Members of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party burn replica of Drone aircraft near Peshawar Press Club on May 14, 2011. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

WASHINGTON, Oct 25 2013 (IPS) - The Washington Post on Thursday reported what it presented as new evidence of a secret agreement under which Pakistani officials have long been privately supporting the U.S. drone war in the country even as they publicly criticised it.

Most news outlets picked up the Post story, and the theme of public Pakistani opposition and private complicity on the drone issue framed media coverage of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s declaration that he had called on President Barak Obama to end the drone war.

The CIA’s drone war was no longer concentrated from mid-2008 onward on foreign terrorists...Instead the CIA was targeting Islamists who had made peace with the Pakistani government.

But the Post story ignored a central fact that contradicts that theme: the Pakistani military leadership had turned decisively against the drone war for years and has been strongly pressing in meetings with U.S. officials that Pakistan be given a veto over targeting.

In fact, the leak of classified CIA documents to the Post appears to represent an effort by CIA officials to head off a decision by the Obama administration to reduce the drone war in Pakistan to a minimum, if not phase it out completely.

The Post article, co-authored by Bob Woodward, said, “Despite repeated denunciation of the CIA’s drone campaign, top officials in Pakistan’s government have for years secretly endorsed the program and routinely received classified briefings on strikes and casualty counts….”

The Post cited top secret CIA documents that it said “expose the explicit nature of a secret arrangement struck between the two countries at a time when neither was willing to publicly acknowledge the existence of the drone program.” The documents, described as “talking points” for CIA briefings, provided details on drone strikes in Pakistan from late 2007 to late 2011, presenting them as an overwhelming success and invariably claiming no civilian casualties.

It has long been known that an understanding was reached between the George W. Bush administration and the regime of President Pervez Musharraf under which the CIA was allowed to carry out drone strikes in Pakistan.

A WikiLeaks cable had quoted Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani as saying in August 2008, “I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”

That statement was made, however, at a time when CIA strikes were still few and focused only on Al-Qaeda leadership cadres. That changed dramatically beginning in 2008.

The Post articles failed to point out that that Pakistan’s military leadership shifted from approval of the U.S. drone campaign to strong opposition after 2008. The reason for the shift was that the CIA dramatically expanded the target list in 2008 from high value Al-Qaeda officials to “signature strikes” that would hit even suspected rank and file associated with supporters of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.

The Post referred to the expansion of the drone strike target list, but instead of noting the impact on the Pakistani military’s attitude, the article brought in another popular news media theme – the unhappiness of Obama administration officials with the support of the Pakistan’s intelligence agency for the Afghan Taliban based in Pakistan.

The Obama administration was well aware of the Pakistani military’s support for the Afghan Taliban movement, however, before it decided to escalate the war in Afghanistan – a fact omitted from the Post story.

The vast expansion of drone strikes in Pakistan engineered by then CIA Director Michael Hayden in 2008 and continued by his successor, Leon Panetta, was justified by targeting anyone in Pakistan believed to be involved in support for the rapidly growing Pashtun resistance to the U.S.-NATO military presence in Afghanistan.

That shift in targeting meant that the CIA’s drone war was no longer concentrated from mid-2008 onward on foreign terrorists and their Pakistani allies who had been waging an insurgency against the Pakistani government. Instead the CIA was targeting Islamists who had made peace with the Pakistani government and were opposing the Pakistani Taliban war against the government.

Two-thirds of the drone strikes in 2008 targeted leaders and even rank and file followers associated with Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mullah Nazeer, both of whom were involved in supporting Taliban forces in Afghanistan, but who opposed attacks on the Pakistani government.

At least initially, the CIA was not interested in targeting the Pakistani Taliban leaders associated with Baitullah Mehsud, who was leading the violent war against the Pakistani military. It was only under pressure from the new head of the Pakistani Army, Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, that the CIA began targeting Mehsud and his organisation in 2009, when Mehsud was killed in a drone strike.

That temporarily mollified the Pakistani military. But in 2010, more than half the strikes in Pakistan were against Hafiz Gul Bahadur, an ally of the Haqqani forces who had reached agreement with the Pakistan government that he would not shelter or support any Taliban militants fighting against the government.

Nearly all the rest of the strikes were against Afghan Taliban targets.

The original agreement reached under Musharraf was clearly no longer applicable. Kayani had clearly expressed his unhappiness with the drone war to the CIA leadership in 2008-09 and again in 2010, but only privately.

Then the January 2011 Raymond Davis incident, in which a contract CIA employee shot and killed two Pakistanis who he believed had been following him on motorcycles, triggered a more serious conflict between the CIA and ISI.

The CIA put intense pressure on ISI to release Davis from jail rather than allowing him to be tried by a Pakistani court, and ISI Chief Shuja Pasha personally intervened in the case to arrange for Davis to be freed on Mar. 16, 2011, despite the popular fury against Davis and the United States.

But the CIA response was to carry out a drone attack the day after his release on what it thought was a gathering of Haqqani network officials but was actually a meeting of dozens of tribal and sub-tribal elders from all over North Waziristan.

An angry Kayani then issued the first ever denunciation of the U.S. drone campaign by a Pakistan military leader. And when Pasha met with CIA Director Leon Panetta and Deputy Director Michael Morell in mid-April 2011, he demanded that Pakistan be given veto power over the strikes, according to two active-duty Pakistani generals interviewed in Islamabad in August 2011.

Reuters reported Apr. 16, 2011 that U.S. officials had said the CIA was willing to consult with Pakistan over the strikes, but that suggestions from the Pakistani military that the drone campaign should return to the original list of high value Al-Qaeda targets was “unacceptable”.

But the Pakistani military’s insistence on cutting down on strikes apparently had an impact on the Obama administration, which was already debating whether the drone war in Pakistan had become counterproductive. The State Department was arguing that it was generating such anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan that it should be curbed sharply or stopped.

Obama himself indicated in his May 23, 2013 speech at the National Defence University that he was thinking about at least reducing the drone war dramatically. Obama said the coming end of U.S. combat in Afghanistan and the elimination of “core Al-Qaeda militants” in Pakistan “will reduce the need for unmanned strikes.”

And in an Aug. 1 interview with a Pakistani television interviewer, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “I think the [drone] programme will end…. I think the president has a very real timeline, and we hope it’s going to be very, very soon.”

CIA concern that Obama was seriously considering ending the drone war in Pakistan was certainly the motive behind a clever move by CIA officials to create a story denigrating Pakistani official opposition to the drone war and presenting it in the best possible light.

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

US may be committing robotic war crimes: Two Human Rights Groups Blast US for Drone Killing Campaigns

By Dave Lindorff


Last week President Obama was largely successful at blacking out from the American public word that Nobel Peace Prize Malala Yousafzai, the courageous Pakistani advocate of girls’ education nearly killed by Taliban gunmen a year ago, used a photo-op invitation to the White House to ask the president to halt to his drone killings of Pakistanis. But Obama cannot so easily silence the condemnations today of his remote drone “Murder, Inc.” program by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.


Girl with no Nobel asks Nobel laureate to stop murdering people with drones

 Washington Post:

"I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees," Yousafzai said in a statement published by the Associated Press. "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."

We don’t gas children, we shred them: Obama’s Grotesque Hypocrisy over Cluster Munitions

By Dave Lindorff


Syrian civilians and children should count themselves lucky that mass opposition in the US, the UK and much of the rest of the world to the idea of a US bombing blitz aimed at punishing the Syrian government for allegedly using Sarin gas in an attack on a Damascus neighborhood forced the US to back off and accept a Russian deal to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons.


Manning get’s slammed; a mass-murderer got sprung Crimes and Punishment (or Not)

By Dave Lindorff


Right now I’m thinking about William Laws Calley. 


Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden: Whistleblowers as Modern Tricksters

By John Grant


Every generation occupies itself with interpreting Trickster anew.

                      -Paul Radin

 

Kerry and Drones

 

CNN reported on August 2 that Secretary of State John Kerry made some rather startling remarks regarding drone strikes. A look at a few of these remarks is instructive

Remark 1:  “Following talks with the Pakistani government, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is making progress in the war on terror, and hopes to end the use of drone strikes ‘very soon.’”

This apparently means that the U.S., which has waged a war of terror for several years now, is making so much progress in doing so that drone strikes will no longer be required to kill and terrorize innocent people.

Remark 2: Regarding ending the strikes, Mr. Kerry said this: “We hope it's going to be very, very soon.” In this statement, he seems to indicate that ending the strikes is something outside of the control of the U.S. government; he ‘hopes’ the strikes will end soon.

Wounds of Waziristan

Who knew? The government snoops have been keeping us safe?: Cranking Up the Washington Lie Machine

By Dave Lindorff


Just for the sake of argument, let's suspend our disbelief for a moment and pretend (I know it's a stretch) that the Obama administration and the apologists for the nation's spy apparatus in Congress, Democratic and Republican, are telling us the gods' honest truth.

IMBY: The Afghanistan War Comes Home to Philadelphia

By Dave Lindorff


(This article was originally written on assignment forwww.counterpunch.org)


New Study Shows How Microlending has Gotten Off Track: Stumbling on Its Own Success

 

By Dave Lindorff


An article by TCBH! journalist Dave Lindorff in the May issue of  American Banker magazine details how the mission of microlending has gotten off track, and why helping impoverished women is getting harder to do.
 

Pakistan’s court declares US drone strikes as illegal

ZeeNews

Islamabad: A Pakistani court on Thursday declared that US drone strikes in the country's lawless tribal belt were illegal and directed the Foreign Ministry to move a resolution against the attacks in the United Nations.

The Peshawar High Court issued the verdict against the strikes by CIA-operated spy planes in response to four petitions that contended the attacks killed civilians and caused collateral damage.

Reaping the Whirlwind: A Violent Act Again in a Violent Nation

 

By Dave Lindorff


I ran the Boston Marathon back in 1968, and, my feet covered with blisters inside my Keds sneakers, dragged across the finish line to meet my waiting uncle at a time of about 3 hours and 40 minutes. It was close enough to the time that the current bombing happened in this year’s race -- about four hours from the starting gun -- that had I been running it this year, I might still been near enough to the finish line to have heard the blasts.

The Future's So Much More Fun than the Past: How to Avoid the Bummer Myth

 

By John Grant


“The elite always has a Plan B, while people have no escape.”
            - Ahmad Saadawi


The Real Obama? The Devil...is in The Details

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.


The HISTORY channel is catching righteous hell for crafting the character of Satan in its miniseries “The Bible” to bear an uncanny likeness to U.S. President Barak Obama.

Is it just coincidence that the dark-skinned Satan in this HISTORY channel miniseries looks hauntingly similar to the first black man to occupy the Oval Office seat in America’s White House?

True, He’s the First Black President But Obama’s the Worst President Ever

 

By Ron Ridenour


Yes, I mean it: the worst ever!


We’ve had James Monroe and his doctrine of supremacy over Latin America. We’ve had Theodore Roosevelt and his invasion of Cuba; Nixon, Reagan, Bush-Bush and their mass murder, and all the war crimes and genocide committed by most presidents. Yes, but we never had a black man sit on the white throne of imperialism committing war crimes.


Droning On: The US and the M Word

 

By Dan DeWalt


‘If the President Does It, It Isn’t Illegal’

             -- Richard M. Nixon



Keeping Americans Safe: Freedom of Information Takes Another Hit in the United States

 

By Dave Lindorff


The US government doesn't like Iran. I get that. It claims, on pretty dubious grounds, that Iran might be planning, at some point down the road, to take some of the uranium it is processing into nuclear fuel to a higher level of purity and make it into an atomic bomb.

Israeli Drone Strikes in Gaza in November 2012 Attack: Two-Thirds Killed Were Civilians

By Ann Wright, OpEdNews

Two-thirds of Palestinians killed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) drones in the November, 2012 attack on Gaza were civilians. This statistic means that for the residents of Gaza, the ground-breaking investigation by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights into the civilian impact and human rights implications of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killing is very important.

::::::::

More Palestinians Killed by Drones Alone in eight DAYS than Israelis Killed by rockets in eight YEARS

  

Heron Drone

Two-thirds of Palestinians killed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) drones in the November, 2012 attack on Gaza were civilians. 

This statistic means that for the residents of Gaza, the ground-breaking investigation by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights into the civilian impact and human rights implications of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killing is very important.

Links? We Don’t Do No Stinkin’ Links: Cognitive Dissonance at the New York Times

 

By Dave Lindorff


For a masterpiece in cognitive dissonance, just look to the foreign editors and the  managing editor of the New York Times, who ran two stories in Saturday’s paper without referencing each other at all.


Hey, Hey, Barack! What Do You Say? How Many Kids Have You Killed Today?

 

By Dave Lindorff


I personally found the president’s inaugural speech not just insipid, but disgusting. It reached its gut-churning nadir near the end where he said:


Crime Watch: American Presidents and their Advisors are War Criminals

 

By Dave Lindorff


Most Americans, their minds focused at the moment on the tragic slaughter of 20 young children aged 5-10, along with five teachers and a school principal in Connecticut by a heavily-armed psychotic 21-year-old, are blissfully unaware that their last president, George W. Bush, along with five key members of his administration, were convicted in absentia of war crimes earlier this month at a tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


From Fairbanks to Waziristan

By Rob Mulford           

Seeds of Love

            It’s a long, long way from Fairbanks, Alaska to Waziristan, “Pakistan the land which is suffering because of those who have no conscience”.[i] I had the honor and privilege to make that journey in October of 2012 as a part of a peace delegation organized and led by that group of courageous activists known as Code Pink: “Women for Peace”. It was our intention to go to the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas of Pakistan to bear witness to the injuries and deaths caused by that portion of United States led “war on terror” being executed via the use of Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicles (UAVs or drones).

CIA chiefs face arrest over horrific evidence of bloody 'video-game' sorties by drone pilots

By David Rose

Daily Mail

The Mail on Sunday today reveals shocking new evidence of the full horrific impact of US drone attacks in Pakistan.

A damning dossier assembled from exhaustive research into  the strikes’ targets sets out in heartbreaking detail the deaths of teachers, students and Pakistani policemen. It also describes how bereaved relatives are forced to gather their loved ones’ dismembered body parts in the aftermath of strikes.

Children under Attack in Pakistan and Afghanistan

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

Six children were attacked in Afghanistan and Pakistan this past week. Three of them, teenaged girls on a school bus in Peshawar, in the tribal region of western Pakistan, were shot and gravely wounded by two Taliban gunmen who were after Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old girl who has been bravely demanding the right of girls to an education. After taking a bullet to the head, and facing further death threats, she has been moved to a specialty hospital in Britain. Her two wounded classmates are being treated in Pakistan.


Assassination Drones: A First Hand Report

Local activist and Peace Action Montgomery member Pam Bailey participated in the peace delegation to Pakistan earlier this month, focused on U.S. use of drones. 

Join us Mon., Oct. 29, for a special presentation from Pam describing this CodePink-organized trip from Islamabad to Waziristan. Pam will share with us the Pakistani perspective of being on the receiving end of drones and give us her view of the implications for their increasing use world-wide.


Pam Bailey, at left, with other members of peace march in Pakistan, Oct. 2012

Don’t miss this first-hand report from one of our war zones. Let’s discuss what the U.S. “kill list” really means. You may want to read Pam’s blogs about this extraordinary trip.

Mon., Oct. 29, 7:30 – 9 p.m.
Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church
9601 Cedar Lane
Bethesda, MD  20814

Cosponsored by Peace Action Montgomery, Pax Christ, Veterans for Peace

Download a flier to post at your religious congregation or community center!

Let’s talk about the Taliban…

Throughout my stay in Pakistan, I have been noting similarities in the challenges faced by the people in the frontier regions here and in Gaza.  Both populations are under daily threat by foreign drones (U.S. vs. Israel), the movement of both groups is tightly controlled, and both peoples are judged by the world based on internal factions branded as “extremist.”

Whenever I speak about Gaza, invariably I will sooner rather than later be confronted with a question about the violence wrought by Hamas, often to the extent that the sins of the Israeli occupation (a primary motivator of Hamas actions) are brushed to the side.  With Pakistan, it’s the Taliban that most often is raised when I talk or write about the evil of U.S. drone strikes. After all, how else, I am asked (even by some Pakistanis), can we destroy this dreaded terrorist group?

The shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan’s Swat valley this week brought a rush of emails into my inbox, from acquaintances who knew I was in the country as part of a delegation focused on highlighting the tragic consequences of drones.

Malala won fame in 2009 during Pakistani army operations to crush a Taliban insurgency that had taken hold in the Swat valley, near the Afghan border. At a young age, she campaigned for girls’ right to attend school, and she  wrote an anonymous blog for the BBC about the chaos at the time, including the burning of girls’ schools. She wrote:

Citizen Diplomacy in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas: "You Are Welcome!"

by Medea Benjamin and Robert Naiman

Islamabad, Pakistan - Many Americans have an image of Pakistan and its people as "teeming with anti-Americanism."Americans see images on TV of angry Pakistani demonstrators burning American flags. Indeed, polls say three of four Pakistanis view the United States as an enemy.

But in the last week, we and thirty other Americans have been blessed with an experience few Americans have shared, seeing a more hopeful side of the relationship of the people of Pakistan to Americans. For the last week in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, and then in the nation’s tribal areas, our delegation that came to Pakistan to protest U.S. drones has been showered with tremendous hospitality, warmth and friendship.

On the road to Waziristan…

Our road to drone-ravaged Waziristan was a long and winding one, at times frightening, surrealistic and frustrating, but always exhilarating and significant.

It officially began Friday morning, when we joined officials from PTI, the political party of Imran Khan, and Clive Stafford-Smith from the UK’s Reprieve at a press conference at the Marriott in Islamabad. In a clear sign that the media were taking the proposed caravan to South Waziristan seriously, a phalanx of international, American and local media were lined up across the ballroom, clamoring for up-close shots and interviews.

Speaking Events

January 10 and 11:
Events in Washington DC to present a petition telling president elect to end wars:
https://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12501

January 20-21 Occupy the Inauguration
 
January 29 David Swanson speaking in Arlington, Va.
 
February David Swanson debating a war supporter in Boston, Mass.
 
April 21-23 UNAC's annual conference in Richmond, Va.

April 29 possible multi-issue protest in DC.

Find Events Here.

 

 

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