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Full Name: Zaheerul Hassan
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                                             Implications of Drone Strikes

                                                        Sajjad Shaukat

Drone strikes on Pakistan’s tribal areas which started during the Bush era have intensified under the Obama Administration. In this regard, two different missile attacks killed 13 militants on September 29 in North and South Waziristan. In the last three years, more than 700 innocent civilians and 14 Al-Qaeda commanders including the top militant leader, Baitullah Mehsud have been killed by these unmanned air vehicles.

Pakistan’s civil and military leadership has repeatedly protested against the attacks by the pilotless aircraft by pointing out that these are likely to affect war against terrorism in the country, but American policy makers do not bother for any internal backlash. Instead, Washington is considering a strategy of widening the course of drone attacks which will also include Balochistan as an alternative to sending more troops to Afghanistan. In this connection, on September 27, 2009 The Sunday Times reported, “The United States is threatening to launch airstrikes on Mullah Omar and the Taliban leadership in the Pakistani city of Quetta…which they find sanctuary across the border from Afghanistan.” In this respect, Ambassador Anne W Patterson also supported these thoughts.

While, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit and ISPR spokesman, Maj-General Athar Abbas have clarified that there are no Taliban leader in Quetta.

Nevertheless, US drone strikes in the tribal areas and prospective attacks on Balochistan will bring about dire implications for Pakistan and the US itself.  

First of all, attacks by US spy planes are likely to sabotage successes achieved by the ongoing military operations in Swat, Buner and Dir where pocket resistance still continues, particularly in South Waziristan where these military actions have commenced recently. At this critical juncture, when Pakistan have been facing a perennial wave of suicide attacks, the drone strikes are causing panic among the dwellers. Inclusion of Balochistan will further deteriorate the situation due to internal backlash in whole of Pakistan, resulting in public protests-moderates will join the radicals. Such a blunder will further organise and increase the number of Pakistani Taliban as majority of the Pakhtoons are likely to join them. However, in that scenario, suicide attacks are likely to increase in our country.

More importantly, airstrikes in Balochistan will lead to sustained Taliban attacks on the NATO supply lines through the Chaman border in Balochistan province, while until now, attacks have focused on the northern route running through the NWFP.

Besides, by playing a double game with Islamabad, under the pretext of Talibanisation and lawlessness, America may also demand to send NATO troops in Pakistan, alleging that nuclear weapons are not safe there. In that situation, even our armed forces will be compelled to stop military operations, while the democratic regime will be forced to leave the US war against terror.

Nonetheless, a continued wave of missile attacks on FATA and Balochistan will certainly result in more unity among the elected government, security forces and the general masses, consequently massive hostility towards Americans. In that scenario, the US policy of liberalism and democracy could badly fail, giving a greater incentive to the fundamentalist and extremist elements in our country.

If Washington isolates Pakistan through sanctions, such an act will also cause drastic impact on the US war against terrorism, not only in our country but also in Afghanistan where US-led NATO forces are already facing defeatism, damaging its regional and global interests. This action is likely to undermine international efforts of stability both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is mentionable that France, Germany, Canada and Australia are reluctant to maintain their troops in Afghanistan for a long time because of casualties and insecurity. So frustrated in Afghanistan, targeting Pakistan’s regions beyond Waziristan, most of the American allies could leave the US war on terror, and a greater rift will be created between the US and other NATO members.


America must also realise that in case of widening the course of drone strikes coupled with any prospective NATO military action on our soil, both Iran and Pakistan might stand together to frustrate the US strategic designs. Moreover, their alliance with Syria would make the matter worse for Washington. In that scenario, a vast region from Pakistan to Somalia will further be radicalized, bringing about more terrorism, directed against the Americans. However, in these adverse circumstances, American worldwide interests are likely to be jeopardized in these countries including whole of the Middle East where the US has already failed in coping with the Islamic militants directly or indirectly.


These negative developments will further reduce the US bargaining leverage on hostile small countries. In this context, determination of Iran and North Korea to continue their nuclear programme, Syrian stand for Palestinian cause and refusal of the Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez to yield to the US pressure in relation to oil supply might be cited as an example.


After fighting a different war for eight years, American cost of war which has already reached approximately 6 trillion dollars will further increase-decline of dollar and acute recession inside the country are likely to give a greater blow to the US economy vis-à-vis other developed countries. Intensity of these problems will lead America towards downfall. In this context, disintegration of the British Empire and the former Soviet Union offers a drastic lesson to Washington. Now, by including Balochistan in its strategy of drone strikes, America is likely to face the same fate.


Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations


Email:                             Source:    The Nation



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