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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs