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Drone Strikes Continue To Fuel Anti-US Sentiment In Pakistan

Drone Strikes Continue To Fuel Anti-US Sentiment In Pakistan

Jason Ditz

US Claims Massive ‘Militant’ Deaths and Almost No Civilian Casualties

The CIA’s drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, something which has become an enormous issue over the past year and a half, have been an enormous source of controversy, both legal and practical.

The US, for its part, maintains that the drone strikes have caused no more than 30 civilian casualties, while killing over 500 militants. The claims seem common among US officials, in keeping with the narrative of precision drone strikes.

But they are tough to swallow for children killed and maimed in the almost constant bombardment. And for villagers the claims that friends and relatives are “suspected militants” are tough to reconcile with reality, as are the claims of US precision.

They also don’t jibe with figures from Pakistan’s own intelligence agencies, which estimate that the US actually killed 700 civilians in 2009 alone, while killing only a handful of confirmed militants. The number of civilians wounded in all these attacks is unknown, but significant.

It is unsurprising, then, that the strikes continue to inflame anti-US sentiment across Pakistan, and US claims that the victims are almost universally “militants” is likely only making matters worse, in the face of enormous evidence to the contrary.

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ALERT: India to send more troops to Afghanistan

PKKH

The recent killing of RAW agents in Kabul attack has exposed Indian activities in Afghanistan. The Indian media avoided to highlight or protest the killings, out of fear of exposure of Indian designs against Pakistan. Now Indian government clearly said it is sending more troops to protect RAW assets.

NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday said Afghanistan remained a “vulnerable” area for Indian assets as the government plans to provide more and better security to its nationals posted in the war-ravaged country.

“There were intelligence alerts that Indian assets may be targeted, following which adequate steps were taken but Afghanistan is a vulnerable area,” home minister P Chidambaram said on Friday’s attack in Kabul in which six Indians died.

Chidambaram’s comments come close on the heels of a government move to send another contingent of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel to strengthen security of Indian interests in Afghanistan.

Sources here said the Afghanistan government has agreed to the Indian demand of sending more security forces to guard vital installations and ongoing development projects, which have become the target of terror groups operating in the region.

The home ministry is also planning to move Indian officials, including doctors, to safer locations in Afghanistan after terrorists struck at two hotels in which Indians engaged in development and reconstruction works were staying, the sources said.

Realising that the Taliban and their associates have started targeting Indian officials who are in the field and are vulnerable, India has begun a review of their security. There are about 4,000 Indians engaged in such projects — being implemented as part of India’s development assistance to the tune of $1.3 billion to Afghanistan. A team of investigators is already in Kabul, joining a probe being conducted by Afghan authorities into last Friday’s terror attack.


Losing the game: India jittery about Pakistani gains

  • Western overtures to the Taliban constitute a significant diplomatic success for Pakistan. Its grit in resisting US pressure to act against the Afghan Taliban has been rewarded. With US Central Command Chief, General David Petraeus, now averse to Pakistan stirring up any more ‘hornets nests’ in the border areas
  • This outreach to the Taliban imperils India’s interests in Afghanistan.
  • India has also to be wary of Karzai’s search for a Saudi role in the reconciliation process. Given their close nexus, Saudi intervention suits Pakistan.
  • India would need to rethink its options in Afghanistan. We cannot count on President Karzai as before.
  • Is the US failing a critical test of its ‘strategic partnership’ with India?
  • Anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan need stronger backing by Russia, the Central Asian countries, Iran and India.
  • The US is disregarding India’s long-term strategic interests in the region; it is yielding to Pakistan’s disruptive ambitions in Afghanistan.

The February 26 killing of Indians in another terrorist attack in Kabul stresses the mounting dangers for India in Afghanistan. Our vulnerabilities will increase as the West prepares to exit and strike a deal with the very forces responsible for this attack — the Taliban.

The United States-Nato strategy is to strengthen their ground position as they negotiate with the Taliban. With an additional 30,000 US and 10,000 Allied troops, the plan is to put military pressure on Taliban strongholds, eliminate the insurgents from key areas, hold those with trained and expanded Afghan forces, provide proper civilian administration, undertake development activities and, in the process, win over local populations to the government side and shrink the Taliban base within the country. The Marjah operation was to test the viability of this ambitious political/civilian/military strategy. But can it succeed without a credible, popular, galvanising national political authority in Kabul, and that too by July 2011?

How realistic is the policy of reintegrating and reconciliation with the Taliban? The December 2009 Nato statement describes reintegration as efforts at the tactical and operational levels to persuade low-level fighters, commanders and shadow governors to lay down their arms and to assimilate peacefully into Afghan society. Reconciliation is presented as high-level strategic dialogue with senior leaders of the insurgent groups (no distinction here between ‘good’ Taliban and ‘bad’ Taliban) designed to terminate their armed campaign against the Afghan people and their government. Both processes, according to the document, are to be Afghan-led. The January 28 London Conference on Afghanistan endorsed this policy.

The process of reintegration, according to Afghan representatives, will be advanced through strengthening Afghan institutions and their delivery capability, enforcing the rule of law, combating corruption, carrying out geographically balanced development activities, investing in education, creating legitimate economic opportunities, extending the reach of the government to remote areas etc.

Can this work of years be compressed into 18 months, and that too in an environment of increasing violence? Physical security has also to be provided by the Afghan National Security Forces, set to increase to 171,600 by 2011, to those who break links with the Taliban against any future reprisals by the extremists. Can such a well-trained and adequately armed, motivated and loyal force be created in a few months?

This outreach to the Taliban imperils India’s interests in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has singled out reconciliation as a key priority of his new government. While instrumental in forging close political ties with India to Pakistan’s intense discomfiture, he is now pushing for a policy that can gravely undermine India’s position in Afghanistan, give Pakistan the role it seeks in Afghanistan’s future, and allow the political expansion of the Taliban’s extremist religious ideology in the region. With his political legitimacy seriously eroded by last year’s fraud-smeared presidential election, his feeble Pashtun support and an ambivalent western one, why he believes he can favourably negotiate with the Taliban as president is unclear.

Such a post-US drawdown survival strategy is unlikely to succeed. A distrustful Pakistan would oust him at the earliest opportunity to facilitate its own grip over a future Afghan government. India has also to be wary of Karzai’s search for a Saudi role in the reconciliation process. Given their close nexus, Saudi intervention suits Pakistan. The Saudi foreign minister’s remarks to the Indian media during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recently-concluded visit to the kingdom, that they are not in touch with the Taliban, can be discounted. A gap is opening between what Karzai sees are Afghan interests and his own and those of India.

Western overtures to the Taliban constitute a significant diplomatic success for Pakistan. Its grit in resisting US pressure to act against the Afghan Taliban has been rewarded. With US Central Command Chief, General David Petraeus, now averse to Pakistan stirring up any more ‘hornets nests’ in the border areas, a self-confident Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is offering to mediate between the US-Nato and the Taliban. His only condition being that Pakistan’s need for a soft strategic depth in Afghanistan is recognised as an insurance against the Indian threat and limits are put on India’s presence in Afghanistan. Kayani’s stature in Pakistan has risen and Pakistan’s attitude towards India has hardened, as was evident during the recent foreign secretary-level talks in New Delhi last week.

India would need to rethink its options in Afghanistan. We cannot count on President Karzai as before. Our local popularity is a fragile base for retaining our long-term influence, unless we can affect power equations within the country. Anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan need stronger backing by Russia, the Central Asian countries, Iran and India. The US is disregarding India’s long-term strategic interests in the region; it is yielding to Pakistan’s disruptive ambitions in Afghanistan.

An unreformed Pakistan that still promotes terrorism against us is being armed and conditions for the spread of an extremist version of Islam in our region are being created, with serious consequences for our security. Is the US failing a critical test of its ‘strategic partnership’ with India? Kanwal Sibal, Don’t lose the Game,March 04, 2010, First Published: 23:21 IST(4/3/2010)

Last Updated: 23:25 IST(4/3/2010),Kanwal Sibal is a former Foreign Secretary, Government of India