American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has once again stepped up drone attacks in Pakistan. It has carried out eight drone attacks during the month of October, which is two times more than the number of drone attacks in September 2011. According to data compiled by the Conflict Monitoring Center –an Islamabad based independent research organization, which monitors drone attacks and anti-state violence in South Asia- drone attacks were intensified after the visits of Marc Grossman, US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton. A maximum of 55 people were killed and 38 injured in eight drone attacks during the month.
The CIA has fired 29 Hell-Fire missiles during the month and destroyed five vehicles and four houses. Five out of eight drone attacks were carried out in South Waziristan Agency while South Waziristan witnessed three such attacks during the month. Local newspapers published from Peshawar claimed that at least two drone attacks killed only civilians however; ten militant commanders were also reportedly killed during the month. Anonymous security officials claimed that senior commanders of Haqqani Network, Mullah Nazir Group and Hafiz Gul Bahadur group were targeted in drone attacks during the month. Pakistani and American intelligence officials claimed that a senior commander Jalil Haqqani was killed in a drone attack on October 13 but Daily Mashriq and Daily Express reported from local sources that the killed person was in fact a truck driver. Claims of security officials could not be verified independently.
US state department once again failed to convince the CIA not to carryout drone attacks during or after high-level visits by American officials to Pakistan. Once again, drone attacks followed US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman. He visited Pakistan on October 13 and 14 and these were the deadliest days of the month as the CIA carried out three drone attacks during his visit while one attack was conducted after his departure. In fact, the CIA had not struck any drone attack prior to Grossman’s visit during the month of October. It is surprising coincidence that every time Marc Grossman visits Pakistan, the CIA follows him with drone attacks. It is evident that American diplomatic efforts are not backed by the CIA. Instead, premier US intelligence agency spoils US diplomatic efforts. The differences between the CIA and US state department over drone attacks demonstrate that president Obama has failed to bring into line efforts of different US departments fighting war-on-terror. Appointing David Petraeus as head of CIA and Leon Panetta as Defense minister was aimed at creating harmony and better coordination between armed forces and intelligence campaign. Apparently, these appointments are working well for the Obama Administration but surprisingly the State Department was left out of the equation. Nonetheless, it appears that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has fought hard for her department and there are reports in US media that the State Department will have its say in drone attacks. The Wall Street Journal reported that the stubborn CIA has agreed not to conduct a drone attack during high profile visits.
The Wall Street Journal has also claimed in its exclusive story that the CIA will give Pakistan advance notice of drone strikes. It seems an outcome of high-level meetings between Pakistani military and civilian leaders with their American counterparts. ‘Taking into confidence’ means that Pakistan will be onboard in most controversial killing campaign, which has killed hundreds of innocent civilians since 2004. According to the Conflict Monitoring Center, the CIA has carried out 74 drone attacks in first ten month of the year killing as many as 570 people. Among the dead, majority is unknown alleged militants. Being onboard in drone campaign will strengthen the perception that Pakistani government covertly supports drone attacks while publicly condemn them. If government of Pakistan has allowed America for drone campaign then the questions raised by many regarding ‘violation’ of Pakistan’s sovereignty will have no worth. However, the campaign will remain controversial because innocent civilians are being killed regularly in drone attacks. Being onboard with CIA also means that government of Pakistan is equally responsible and accountable for civilian deaths in drone attacks.
As soon as the CIA stepped up drone attacks in Pakistan, protest against this campaign once again gained momentum. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf held a huge rally in capital city of Islamabad to denounce drone attacks. Human rights activists from western countries also participated in the rally. A tribal Jirga was also organized in Islamabad to highlight miseries of victims of drone attacks. A UK based human rights organization REPRIVE is new entrant to the protesting organizations around the globe against this controversial killing campaign. Drone attacks were also criticized in PTI’s half-million rally in Lahore on 30th of October.
Although the Wall Street Journal has reported a ‘shift’ in drone policy where ‘bulk’ of suspected militants will be avoided but the data compiled by CMC for the month of October shows that the agency is still going after suspected foot soldiers. Fifty-five people were killed during the month but Pakistani and US security officials could release names of only ten people, some of them commanders of militants. Transparency is still lacking in claims and reporting of drone attacks. Militants are also responsible for keeping the world in dark regarding drone attacks. Almost all factions fighting in Pakistan’s tribal area has their spokespersons but they remain silent on the issue of drone attacks, perhaps to hide their own losses.