There had not been a drone strike in Pakistan since December of last year. The pause was reportedly to make it easier for the Pakistani government to conduct peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban. But in a period of twenty-four hours two drone strikes were launched by the CIA, and the strikes are likely to intensify in the coming days.
United States government officials do not comment on drone strikes, even anonymously. What the world finds out about who was killed, who was targeted, why the strikes were launched, etc, comes from anonymous government officials in the countries where operations are taking place.
When describing “suspected militant” deaths or civilian casualties, the reports from officials have previously turned out to be false, even though most media typically accept them as true.
The drone strikes came after the attack on the airport in Karachi and Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Haji Mujtaba of Reuters reported, “Two top government officials said Islamabad had given the Americans ‘express approval’ for the strikes—the first time Pakistan has admitted to such cooperation.”
A “joint Pakistan-US operation” had been launched to target “insurgents” believed to have been behind the violence that took place at the airport.
“Another official,” according to the Reuters reporters, “said Pakistan had asked the United States for help after the attack on the country’s busiest airport on Sunday, and would be intensifying air strikes on militant hideouts in coming days.”
“The attacks were launched with the express approval of the Pakistan government and army,” said a top government official, requesting not to be named as he was not authorized to discuss the issue with the media.
“It is now policy that the Americans will not use drones without permission from the security establishment here. There will be complete coordination and Pakistan will be in the loop.
“We understand that drones will be an important part of our fight against the Taliban now,” the official added.
McClatchy Newspapers has previously reported on secret collaboration between the CIA the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), which has been involved in joint operations.
Top secret US intelligence reports confirmed, “The United States used drone strikes to aid the Pakistani military in its battle against the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, or TTP – assistance that the Obama and Bush administrations never explicitly acknowledged or legally justified.”
As McClatchy reporter Jonathan Landay described:
The U.S. intelligence reports estimated that as many as 31 people were killed in at least nine strikes on the Pakistani Taliban or on locations that the group shared with others between January 2010 and September 2011. While U.S. officials say the Taliban Movement of Pakistan works closely with al Qaida, its goal is to topple the Pakistani government through suicide bombings, assaults and assassinations, not attacking the United States. The group wasn’t founded until 2007, and some of the strikes in the U.S. intelligence reports occurred before the administration designated it a terrorist organization in September 2010
In the recent drone strikes, sixteen people were reported killed. All were “suspected militants.”
Sources told the Pakistan-based Dawn News that a Haqqani network commander named Haji Gul was killed in the attack that hit Dand-i Darpakhel in North Waziristan. Other Afghan Taliban commanders, Mufti Sofian and Abu Bakar, were reportedly killed as well.
Commander Yasin Gardezi, Abdullah Khan, Commander Jamil, Commander Asadullah and a driver, Noor Khan, were each reported to have been killed in strikes. They all were believed to be preparing some kind of an operation.
The Afghan Taliban is, of course, different from the Pakistani Taliban. This is the group US military forces has been fighting in Afghanistan for nearly thirteen years now.
The Haqqani Network has, as Landay detailed, cooperated with al Qaeda for “philosophical and tactical reasons” and was “blamed for some of the bloodiest attacks against civilians and US-led forces in Afghanistan.” However, when the strikes in the intelligence reports that killed militants from the network took place, it was not on the “US list of international terrorist groups.” The group also has never been “directly implicated in a plot against the US homeland.”
The US government has said the Afghan Taliban is an “associated force” of al Qaeda, which is why it has launched strikes and been at war with the group. The same has not been said of the Pakistani Taliban or the Haqqani Network, even thought numerous strikes have in which the CIA has been involved have been launched.
Any more drone strikes or military operations by the CIA to target the Pakistan Taliban will effectively be drawing the US further into a war against groups the Pakistan government is fighting.
Photo by Pierre Metivier under Creative Commons license