Decline in Drone Attacks?


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By Abdullah Khan

According to The Conflict Monitoring Center’s monthly report, American spy agency the CIA has carried out six drone attacks inside Pakistani territory during the month of July 2011 killing as many as 73 people. During the month, unmanned predators fired 29 missiles on houses and vehicles destroying five houses and four vehicles. Five out of six attacks were carried out in North Waziristan Agency. July 11 and 12 were two deadliest days when the CIA killed 63 people in four drone attacks. Out of these four attacks, three were carried out on July 12 making it deadliest day of the month. Deadliest single attack was carried out on July 11 when 25 people were killed.

Comparison with Previous Month Data

As June was the deadliest month of the year 2011, the month of July saw a significant reduction in drone attacks. In June, there were 12 drone attack which killed 117 people. However, in July, CIA struck only six times killing 73 people. These six attacks were carried out in three different days of the month, which shows that the month was relatively calm. However, the reduction in number of drone attacks cannot be seen a permanent factor as fluctuation in frequency is seen constantly during the year 2011. The table below shows a comparison between different moths of this year.

Drone Tally of 2011

Month

No. of Drone Attacks

Reported Deaths

January

11

49

February

4

21

March

12

89

April

2

32

May

9

62

June

12

117

July

6

73

Total

51

443

Focus Back on North Waziristan

The CMC data shows that CIA’s focus is back on North Waziristan as five out of six drone strikes were recorded in North Waziristan. According to CMC’s previous report, it was for the first time since the drone campaign started in 2004 that number of drone attacks in South Waziristan had exceeded the number of attacks in North Waziristan during the month of June 2011 as eight out of twelve strikes were carried out in South Waziristan. South Waziristan is known as a safe haven for anti-Pakistan Taliban whereas militants operating in North Waziristan generally target US and NATO forces across the border inside Afghanistan. North Waziristan always remained main target of CIA’s assassination campaign. Past data shows that South Waziristan was never a frequent target of US predators. According to the yearly report of the Conflict Monitoring Center, during the year 2010, CIA has carried out 132 attacks inside Pakistan and only nine of them were in South Waziristan.

Significant Deaths

An Australian Al-Qaeda commander Saifullah was reportedly killed in a drone attack on July 5[i]. Two missiles fired by a drone struck a guesthouse near the main bazaar in Mir Ali, North Waziristan, at around 11pm on Tuesday July 5. Six people were reported killed and five wounded. Saifullah, reportedly 50 years old, has been described as a middle-ranking al Qaeda leader, though little more is known about him. Australian government has not yet confirmed his death and said that relevant agencies are investigating the reports.

No other significant death was reported during the month. All those killed were unknown persons. When drone campaign was started in 2004, the basic focus was to eliminate Al-Qaeda’s top leadership. However, apart from some Al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders, the rest of the people killed in drone attacks are usually unknown suspected militants. This is first time in the history of warfare that a spy agency is targeting ordinary suspected fighters in its high-cost target killing campaign. According to US media reports Pakistan has secretly approved the drone attacks inside Pakistan but officially Pakistan denies these allegation. The unease of Pakistani government regarding drone attacks shows that U.S. is crossing the alleged ‘allowed’ limits. It seems that if it was indeed allowed then the limits were to hit only high value targets. The expansion of the campaign from high value targets to ordinary suspected militants and resultant civilian deaths are causing irritation in Islamabad.

Civilian Casualties

During the month of July, no civilian casualty was reported in any media report. It does not mean that no civilian was killed indeed. Deaths of civilians in drone attacks are always overlooked by US and Pakistani security officials to avert public backlash. However, a UK based news organization. Last month, John Brennan, the White House’s top counterterrorism advisor claimed, “In the last year ‘there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop.'”

Zero civilian casualties in more than 130 drone attack sounded too good to be true. Brennan’s claim was exposed by a UK based organization The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in its report released during the month of July 2011. The report has listed 25 attacks in which civilians were killed but not reported in any media report.[ii] The report claims at least 45 civilians were killed in 10 strikes since August 2010. Among these, the Bureau reports that it has identified, by name, six children killed in drone strikes. More civilians are likely to have been killed in an additional 15 strikes for which precise information is not available.

Elimination of Militants not the only Objective

A news report published in July revealed that elimination of militants is not the only objective of the CIA’s assassination campaign. The CIA can take lives of many innocent civilians just to satisfy its ego. An exclusive report by Associated Press revealed that some of the drone attacks were apparently in the nature of the CIA’s revenge acts against the ISI. The infamous drone attack of March 17, which killed 40 innocent tribesmen attending a tribal jirga, it now transpires, was indeed a revenge act for the detention of  CIA operative Raymond Davis for 7 weeks in custody in Lahore for killing two Pakistanis. The chilling words of a US official, quoted in the AP story: “It was in retaliation for Davis. The CIA was angry.”

Apart from above mentioned attack on a tribal Jirga the CIA has carried out a drone attack after every high level meeting between Pakistani and American officials during past few months. Among them were attacks that followed an April visit by Director General ISI Ahmad Shuja Pasha to Washington as well as trips to Islamabad by Sen. John Kerry and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The latest such strike occurred on August 2, 2011 while the U.S. special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Marc Grossman, was visiting Islamabad.

Such revenge attacks by the CIA raise the issue of legality of this campaign, which is already controversial all over the world. It is well known fact that drone attacks work as a cause of recruitment of members of affected families into militants ranks. Politically motivated attacks by US spy agency are causing more complications for Pakistan to restore peace in the area.

CIA and State Department at odd over drone attacks

It is evident from timeline of drone attacks since last year that the CIA and US State Department are not on same page on the issue of drone attacks. The CIA often undermines State Departments diplomatic efforts by drone attacks during or after key meetings between Pakistani and American officials. The above-mentioned news report of Associated Press also revealed the differences between the two departments over timings of drone attacks. When CIA agent Raymond Davis was in custody in Pakistan over killing of two Pakistanis, US ambassador to Pakistan requested to CIA to stop drone attacks but his request was met with outrageous attack on a tribal Jirga killing at least 40 people. Last month when State Department and Pentagon were trying to win hearts and minds of Pakistani public by providing aid to flood victims CIA suddenly intensified drone attacks to an unprecedented level, which prompted protests against US all over Pakistan. It seems CIA does not care much about public diplomacy of State Department. After Leon Panetta becoming Defense Secretary, State Department’s dilemma is likely to be further increased.

Hafiz Saeed on Legal Front against Drone Attacks

Head of Jamat-ud-Dawah Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is fighting a legal battle against drone attacks in Lahore High Court. A Pakistani court has adjourned until September 30 a petition filed by him asking the court to direct the government to take steps to stop U.S. drone attacks in the country’s tribal belt. Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed of the Lahore High Court on July 13, 2011 adjourned the hearing of the petition after Deputy Attorney General Zia Al-Qamar Bhatti sought more time to file a reply on behalf of the government.[iii] In his petition, Saeed had asked the court to direct the government to implement a resolution unanimously passed by parliament against U.S. drone attacks on Pakistani soil[iv]. Jamat-ud-Dawah itself is accused of supporting militancy in Kashmir. The organization is enjoying enormous public support in Pakistan and can bring thousands of people to the street on the issue but surprisingly its leadership has opted for a legal battle instead of public protest like Tehreek-e-Insaf of Imran Khan. It demonstrates that Jamat-ud-Dawah is moving carefully against US who is responsible for putting the name of the organization into the UN Security Council’s list of proscribed organizations.

Table 1: Drone Attacks Detail of July 2011

Sr. No

Date

Main Area

Locality

Type of Target

Missiles Fired

Killed

Injured

Significant Deaths

Sources

Max

Min

Max

Min

 1

20-7-11

NWA

Mir Ali

House

2

4

4

NK

NK

NK

Daily Express

Xinhua

 2

12-7-11

NWA

Gadwani Datta Khail

House+Vehicle

8

10

3

0

0

NK

Daily Ummat

Daily Jang

Daily Express23

 3

12-7-2011

NWA

Shawal

House+Vehicle

4

18

13

3

NK

NL

Daily Ummat

Daily Jang

Daily Express23

 4

12-7-11

SWA

Malak Shahi Barmal

Vehicle

2

10

7

7

MK

NK

Daily Ummat

Daily Jang

Daily Express23

 5

11-7-11

NWA

Gorewake Datta Khail

House & Vehicle

11

25

23

10

NK

NK

Daily Ummat

Daily Jang

Daily Express23

 6

5-7-11

NWA

Mir Ali Hmzoi

House

4

6

4

3

0

No

BBC Urdu

AFP

29

73Max killed

53 Min Killed

23

NK

NK

References:

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2 thoughts on “Decline in Drone Attacks?

  1. Pingback: ‎| Conflict Monitoring Centre’s latest report ~ CIA has killed at least 443 people via 51 drone attacks so far this year in Pakistan! | | truthaholics

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