News / Asia

Study: Drone Strikes Have Been Effective in Pakistan

US Air Force Drone aircraft
US Air Force Drone aircraft

A new report says the rapid escalation of drone attacks in Pakistan has been effective in targeting al-Qaida and Taliban militants.  But analysts say the drone strikes are not likely to stop the insurgents from training bomb makers or planning assaults against Western targets.

According to an analysis prepared by the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative at the Washington-based New America Foundation, unmanned airborne vehicle attacks have increased dramatically since U.S. President Barack Obama was sworn into office early last year.

In 2009, the report says, there were 51 drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, compared with 45 during the entire eight-year administration of George W. Bush.

The study analyzed 114 reported strikes from unmanned aircraft during a six-year period.  It says press accounts say the assaults killed up to 1,210 individuals, of whom as many as 850 were described as militants.  The analysis says about a third of those killed were civilians.

The CIA's drone program has focused on Pakistan's lawless tribal areas, where officials say Taliban and al-Qaida affiliated fighters plan attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan and other Western targets.

The drone attacks are unpopular with many Pakistanis, who see them as a violation of their country's sovereignty.  The United States does not officially acknowledge the attacks.

Paul Cruickshank is a New York-based investigative reporter specializing in al-Qaida and an alumni fellow at the New York University Center on Law and Security.

Cruickshank says eyewitness accounts by militants from the United States and Europe recruited by al-Qaida and captured by Western security forces show the drone campaign is having a major impact.

"The Western recruits who where there at the time describe this drone campaign as very effective.  It was creating a lot of concern to al-Qaida," he said.  "They were moving around Western recruits from place to place trying to prevent them from being targeted by these strikes.  Al-Qaida really had to wholesale adapt its operation and organizational structures in the tribal areas of Pakistan," he added.

Cruickshank say al-Qaida is adapting to the drone campaign by decentralizing operations and training militants indoors.  He says the terrorist group is relying almost exclusively on couriers to transmit information and has stopped using electronic communications that can be traced by intelligence agencies.

He says despite the drone campaign, and a major Pakistani Army operation against militants in the South Waziristan region, al-Qaida continues to offer what he says is sophisticated training to bomb makers focused on attacking Western targets.

"There has been an expansion in the drone campaign, there has been a new offensive in South Waziristan, but I do not think this has really wiped out al-Qaida.  I think it is pretty likely you will see new plots emerging from the tribal areas of Pakistan," said Cruickshank.

Just last month a 25-year-old Afghan immigrant pleaded guilty in federal court in New York in connection with a plot to launch a suicide attack on the city's subway system.

Najibullah Zazi says he was recruited by al-Qaida while on a trip to Pakistan and was trained as a bomb maker in Waziristan.

Zazi says his "martyrdom operation" was to take place around September 11 last year, the 8th anniversary of al-Qaida's terrorist attacks on the United States and was intended to protest U.S. military actions in Afghanistan.

Former CIA al-Qaida analyst Barbara Sude, who is now with the Rand Corporation, says al-Qaida's leaders believe they can survive the drones and U.S. pledges to assist Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"They believe they can outlast any U.S. commitment to those countries.  How long will the U.S. be willing to sacrifice and they believe it is a short time," said Sude.  "Now they have been wrong.  They were wrong in Iraq, they may be wrong in Afghanistan, but they know there are pressures on the U.S. and Western interests to just call a halt to it and leave," she said.

Last October the Pakistani military launched the mission in South Waziristan as Pakistani Taliban militants mounted a fierce campaign of attacks against government and civilian targets throughout the country.

In 2009 authorities say there were a record 87 suicide attacks in Pakistan, which killed about 1,300 people.

Peter Bergen co-directs the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation.

Bergen says recent surveys show public support in Pakistan for al-Qaida and the Taliban has plummeted because of the violence.

"The Pakistani Taliban have made a major strategic error, which is attacking where they live, just as al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia made a major strategic error," he said.  "So I think going forward, since al-Qaida and the Taliban are headquartered in Pakistan, this is the biggest change we have seen since 9/11," said Bergen

After about 18 months of sustained drone attacks, the report by the New America Foundation says many of Pakistan's militants have likely moved out of their once safe haven along the Afghan border into what they perceive are less dangerous parts of the country.

Pakistan has recently arrested top Taliban militants in the southern port city of Karachi, far from their past hideouts near Afghanistan.

You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid