Three days after his inauguration, on January 23, 2009, President Barack Obama ordered
US predator drones to attack sites inside of Pakistan, reportedly
killing 15 people. It was the first documented attack ordered by the
new US Commander in Chief inside of Pakistan. Since that first
Obama-authorized attack, the US has regularly bombed Pakistan, killing scores of civilians. The New York Times reported
that the attacks were clear evidence Obama "is continuing, and in some
cases extending, Bush administration policy." In the first 99 days of
2009, more than 150 people were reportedly killed in these drone
attacks. The most recent documented attack was reportedly last Thursday
in Waziristan. Since 2006, the US drone strikes have killed 687 people
(as of April). That amounts to about 38 deaths a month just from drone
The use of these attack drones by Obama should not come
as a surprise to anyone who followed his presidential campaign closely.
As a candidate, Obama made clear that Pakistan's sovereignty was
subservient to US interests, saying he would attack with or without
the approval of the Pakistani government. Obama said if the US had
"actionable intelligence" that "high value" targets were in Pakistan,
the US would attack. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, echoed
those sentiments on the campaign trail and "did not rule out U.S.
attacks inside Pakistan, citing the missile attacks her husband,
then-President Bill Clinton, ordered against Osama bin Laden in
Afghanistan in 1998. ‘If we had actionable intelligence that Osama bin
Laden or other high-value targets were in Pakistan I would ensure that
they were targeted and killed or captured,' she said."
Last weekend, Obama granted his first extended interview with a Pakistani media outlet, the newspaper Dawn:
Responding to a question about drone attacks inside
Pakistan's tribal zone, Mr Obama said he did not comment on specific
‘But I will tell you that we have no intention of
sending US troops into Pakistan. Pakistan and its military are dealing
with their security issues.'
There are a number of issues raised by this brief response offered
by Obama. First, the only difference between using these attack drones
and using actual US soldiers on the ground is that the soldiers are
living beings. These drones sanitize war and reduce the US death toll
while still unleashing military hell disproportionately on civilians.
The bottom line is that the use of drones inside the borders of
Pakistan amounts to the same violation of sovereignty that would result
from sending US soldiers inside the country. Obama defended the attacks
in the Dawn interview, saying:
"Our primary goal is to be a partner and a friend to
Pakistan and to allow Pakistan to thrive on its own terms, respecting
its own traditions, respecting its own culture. We simply want to make
sure that our common enemies, which are extremists who would kill
innocent civilians, that that kind of activity is stopped, and we
believe that it has to be stopped whether it's in the United States or
in Pakistan or anywhere in the world."
Despite Obama's comments about respecting Pakistan "on its own terms," this is how Reuters recently described the arrangement between Pakistan and the US regarding drone attacks:
U.S. ally Pakistan objects to the U.S. missile strikes,
saying they violate its sovereignty and undermine efforts to deal with
militancy because they inflame public anger and bolster support for the
Washington says the missile strikes are carried out
under an agreement with Islamabad that allows Pakistani leaders to
publicly criticise the attacks. Pakistan denies any such agreement.
Pakistan is now the biggest recipient
of US aid with the House of Representatives recently approving a
tripling of money to Pakistan to about $1.5 billion a year for five
years. Moreover, US special forces are already operating inside of
Pakistan, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Baluchistan.
According to the Wall Street Journal, US Special Forces are:
training Pakistan's Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force
responsible for battling the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, who cross
freely between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the officials said. The U.S.
trainers aren't meant to fight alongside the Pakistanis or accompany
them into battle, in part because there will be so few Special Forces
personnel in the two training camps.
A senior American military
officer said he hoped Islamabad would gradually allow the U.S. to
expand its training footprint inside Pakistan's borders.
In February, The New York Times reported that US forces are also engaged in other activities inside of Pakistan:
American Special Operations troops based in Afghanistan
have also carried out a number of operations into Pakistan's tribal
areas since early September, when a commando raid that killed a number
of militants was publicly condemned by Pakistani officials. According
to a senior American military official, the commando missions since
September have been primarily to gather intelligence.
It is clear-and has been for a long time- that the Obama
administration is radically expanding the US war in Afghanistan deeply
into Pakistan. Whether it is through US military trainers (that's what
they were called in Vietnam too), drone attacks or commando raids
inside the country, the US is militarily entrenched in Pakistan. It
makes Obama's comment that "[W]e have no intention of sending US troops
into Pakistan" simply unbelievable.
For a sense of how significant US operations are and will continue to be for years and years to come, just look at the US plan
to build an almost $1 billion massive US "embassy" in Islamabad, which
is reportedly modeled after the imperial city they call a US embassy in
Baghdad. As we know very clearly from Iraq, such a complex will result
in an immediate surge in the deployment of US soldiers, mercenaries and