Errant Drone Attacks Spur Militants in Pakistan
U.S. air strikes have been touted as eliminating top al Qaeda leaders, but they are actually weakening Pakistan’s defense against the insurgency.WASHINGTON, Apr 15 (IPS) - The U.S. program of drone aircraft strikes against higher-ranking officials of al Qaeda and allied militant organizations, which has been touted by proponents as having eliminated nine of the 20 top al Qaeda leaders, is actually weakening Pakistan’s defense against the insurgency of the Islamic militants there by killing large numbers of civilians based on faulty intelligence and discrediting the Pakistani military, according to data from the Pakistani government and interviews with senior analysts.
Some evidence indicates, moreover, that the top officials in the Barack Obama administration now see the program more as an incentive for the Pakistani military to take a more aggressive posture toward the militants rather than as an effective tool against the insurgents.
Although the strikes have been sold to the U.S. public as a way to weaken and disrupt al Qaeda, which is an explicitly counter-terrorist objective, al Qaeda is not actually the main threat to U.S. security emanating from Pakistan, according to some analysts. The real threat comes from the broader, rapidly growing insurgency of Islamic militants against the shaky Pakistani government and military, they observe, and the drone strikes are a strategically inappropriate approach to that problem.
"Al Qaeda has very little to do with the militancy in the tribal areas of Pakistan," said Marvin Weinbaum, former Afghanistan and Pakistan analyst at the Bureau of Intelligence Research at the U.S. Department of State and now scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute.