United States has been conducting covert operations to target and kill Al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders hiding in the volatile northwest province of Pakistan since 2004. Much of the reaction against these killings has emerged after the supposed killing of Osama Bin laden through an operation which was carried out without taking Government of Pakistan in confidence. This action was subsequently followed by more Drone strikes despite hollow “cosmetic” out cries by the country’s leadership and establishment.
Putting aside for a while the question of whatever Sovereignty we are left with, the bigger issue relates to the effectiveness of these drone strikes which in essence are creating more targets to deal with instead of limiting them. What the American government fails to comprehend is the fact that the faith of any individual is not something physical which can be eliminated through the drone strikes and in reality requires intellectual wisdom; an attribute most of the American policy makers seem to be devoid of.
There have been 254 strikes in total till date since the program began in 2004. The number of US airstrikes inside Pakistan from 2004-2011 stand at 1, 1, 3, 5, 35, 53, 117 and 43 respectively. Interestingly, 248 of those strikes have taken place since January 2008. During this period, the drone attacks have killed 2,462 individuals, out of which around 1,979 were described as militants. Thus, the true non-militant fatality rate since 2004 is approximately 19.61%. From 2004-2007, 112 individuals lost their lives to the drone strikes compared to 314 in 2008, 725 in 2009, 993 in 2010 and 318 as of today in 2011. Over the past six years, the strikes have focused on two regions: North and South Waziristan. Over the past two years, there has been a dramatic shift in the location of the strikes. In 2009, 42% of the strikes have taken place in North Waziristan and 51% in South Waziristan. In 2010, 89% of the strikes have taken place in North Waziristan and only 6% in South Waziristan. Of the 254 strikes since 2004, 70% have hit targets in North Waziristan, and 25% have hit targets in South Waziristan.
The majority of the attacks have taken place in the tribal areas administered by four powerful Taliban groups: the Mehsuds, Mullah Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, and the Haqqanis. In 2010, there was a dramatic shift in strikes to tribal areas administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Hafiz Gul Bahadar is based in North Waziristan. The high profile leaders killed from 2004-2007 were 3 in number followed by 11 in 2008, 7 in 2009, 12 in 2010 and 2 in 2011. Thus in total 35 high profile leaders have been eliminated in 254 strikes which killed 2,462 individuals giving a drone accuracy rate of only 13.77% in terms of high value targets.
In essence, what the United States is trying to achieve through its “efforts” to catch high value targets has an “inaccuracy” rate of 86.22%. Similarly the innocent civilian killed and labeled conveniently as collateral damage number 483 as per US own doubtable Statistics. These are not simply 483 individuals vanishing from the screen but they are leaving behind an average of minimum four members per family having all the conviction to fight against the Americans for whatever the cost may be. So what the drone strikes are achieving is creating 1932 (4 family members x 483 innocent victims) new targets against killing 1,979 terrorists thus giving a success rate of only 2.37%. Inaccuracy rate of 86.22% coupled with success rate of only 2.37% is playing the role of a catalyst to further aggravate the situation.
The solution to all this lies not in killing people for the only thing which can turnaround this hysterical wave of terror is the mindset change which comes through long term sustainable efforts towards working on minds and not on mindless endeavors. Historically, wars have created more disasters than coming up with solutions, a fact reinforced by looking at the plight of people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let’s act before everything is lost forever.