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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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Pakistan Begins Its Largest Military Exercises In 20 Years

April 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Pakistan Begins Its Largest Military Exercises In 20 Years

Sabrina Tavernise

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A month of military exercises began in Pakistan this weekend, the country’s biggest drills in 20 years, in what analysts said was a show of military muscle meant mainly to impress a domestic audience.

Pakistan conducts military exercises every year, an event that serves both as conventional warfare training for troops and as a display of force for India, Pakistan’s longtime rival. India, for its part, conducts similar exercises across the border.

But this year’s round is Pakistan’s largest since 1989, a military spokesman said, the year that the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from Afghanistan, and analysts say the timing is related to the military’s confidence and sense of accomplishment.

In 1989, Pakistan — together with its ally, the United States — savored a moment of victory after the Soviet military’s February pullout. The countries had backed Islamic fighters against Soviet troops in Afghanistan for a decade. Now the military wants to burnish its image again, coming off a year of operations against Taliban militants that are broadly perceived by Pakistanis as a success.

“They feel happy that they have succeeded to some extent,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a military analyst in Lahore. “Therefore, they want to do public relations work.”

Pakistan’s military had suffered serious setbacks in the public eye after former President Pervez Musharraf, a general who had seized power in a coup, sunk in popularity. Pakistan’s current army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has worked to reverse that, making public appearances on the front lines, courting the news media, and remaining mostly behind the scenes in political affairs.

The field exercises, scheduled to run through early May, are expected to involve as many as 50,000 troops from most branches of the armed services, according to the Pakistani media. They are scheduled to take place along Pakistan’s eastern border, close to India.

The exercises, Mr. Rizvi said, were also aimed at showing Pakistanis that the military was still focused on conventional warfare on its eastern border. All of the fighting in the recent past has been with the Pakistani Taliban in the country’s west, close to Afghanistan.

India is also holding training exercises, which a military spokesman in New Delhi said included mechanized forces and infantry. “It is a routine exercise conducted every year,” the spokesman said.

New York Times

Pak Military Exercise: For Pakistan India Is Real Threat, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Just An Irritant

Pak Military Exercise: For Pakistan India Is Real Threat, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Just An Irritant

Sajjad Malik

Islamabad – Pakistan’s security establishment, unmoved by the threat from homegrown Islamic insurgents, is to launch a training exercise this week focused on the scenario of a possible showdown with traditional rival India.

The country’s powerful military is to launch exercise Azm-e-Nau (New Resolve) III to test the capacities of its men against a hypothetical Indian attack, and validate its security strategy.

The war game is the culmination of the new strategies discussed over a period of one and half years at various academic and operational levels, and will be the largest military exercise since 1989.

Director General Military Training (DGMT) Major General Muzzamil Hussain said the forthcoming exercise in the garrison city of Rawalpindi will “focus on India.”

The exercise coincides with renewed efforts against Islamic militants, who last year moved to within 160 kilometres of the capital Islamabad.

They have been since pushed back to mountainous hideouts along the Afghan border, from where they continue to launch attacks against the national armed forces.

Pakistan’s army, over half a billion strong, has been reluctant to move against the rebels, who have previously been groomed by the forces to fight as their proxies, first in Afghanistan and later in India.

Since 2001, the Pakistani army has lost over 2,000 soldiers in skirmishes against the Taliban in the inhospitable terrain along the border, where once Islamabad’s security officials would guide the militants into Afghanistan to fight the Russian occupiers.

The bad blood between army and militants has given hope to local security analysts and US defence policy makers that Pakistan’s army might re-write its security doctrine, replacing India with the Taliban as chief security threat.

The US needs Pakistan’s commitment to fight a focussed war against the Taliban to succeed in Afghanistan and it has been trying to increase Pakistan’s comfort level vis-a-vis India.

But the upcoming war games could put paid to such hopes, as Pakistan puts its military strategy against India through its paces from April 10 to May 13 close to the Indian border.

“The exercise is a concept validation stage of the operational thought process manifested in the form of tactical, operational and organizational aspects which would be validated and refined through the lessons learnt,” military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said.

The two countries have a history of enmity and have fought three major wars since gaining independence from Britain in August 1947. Two of the clashes were over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is considered a flash point between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

General Muzzamil justified the manoeuvres, saying India had carried out at least 12 exercises in the recent past to test its cold start doctrine, and that another Indian exercise is scheduled to coincide with Pakistan’s.

India’s new strategy of launching quick strikes across the border will be at the heart of its month-long exercise, known as Yodha Shakti, which is to begin mid-April on the Indian side of the border.

The rival manoeuvres will put soldiers from the two armies – which number a combined total nearly 2 million troops – virtually within shouting distance of each other, in a move likely to give the United States something of a headache.

Washington has worked hard in recent years to soothe tensions between nuclear powers India and Pakistan, in the hope that Islamabad might then divert more of its attention and resources to fighting the Taliban militants.

But Pakistan’s military high command does not appear to be convinced of India’s proclaimed good intentions, and seems to be more concerned by Indian military capabilities and apparent posturing.

“We make our preparation to counter any move by India,” said Abbas. “The intentions are immaterial as they can change over time, but not the potential which matters a lot for us.”

The Pakistani military’s unwavering focus on India indicates that the defence establishment does not consider its operations against the Taliban to be anything more than a momentary diversion in the wider defence scenario.

Monday’s coordinated attacks on a US consulate in Peshawar and a political party, which left 53 dead, were simply “security problems”, said Abbas, and did not warrant a wholesale rethinking of Pakistan’s long-term security strategy.

“We are aware of double jeopardy including trouble on western and eastern fronts but the current exercise is to deal with dangers from east, we have separate plans to counter problems at the west,” Muzzamil added.

Like his boss, army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani who authorized it, Muzzamil believes that the field exercise, involving 20,000 to 40,000 troops, will help to draw up a Pakistani response plan for incidents on the eastern border with India.

Muzzamil also said that internal problems made any nation more vulnerable to external aggressions. “We are training to counter any foreign move from the east at the time of our domestic security problems,” he said.