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

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid