A detailed counterterrorism manual newly prepared by the Obama administration keeps Pakistan as exception for the CIA’s campaign of drone strikes.
Although the new manual limits the agency’s capability to use drones for targeted killings, the limitations would not apply to operations in Pakistan, in a compromise between the CIA, State Department and the Pentagon.
According to the Washington Post, John Brennan, the White House advisor on counterterrorism and now nominee to head the CIA, has exempted the US spy agency from the new manual’s guidelines. The new guidelines lay out conditions on the use of drones to kill al-Qaida members, other terrorist organizations or even US citizens.
The guidelines require strict approval from the White House should the need arise to use drones, as well as the involvement of multiple agencies, such as the State Department, in adding new names to kill lists. But none of these rules apply to US drone attacks in Pakistan.
According to the guidelines, the CIA needs to provide advance warning to the US ambassador to Pakistan in case a drone strike is considered necessary. Bust such protocols are rarely followed.
Now, with this exemption, the US would continue its controversial drone strikes without being answerable to anyone. According to reports, the complete manual on counterterrorism guidelines will get a final approval from President Obama within a week. The new manual will guide the US targeted killing program in Obama’s second term.
The new document on counterterrorism is the first of its kind to legalize targeted strikes and includes procedures for adding names to kill lists. The document also sets out rules for when US citizens can be targeted overseas, and specifies guidelines for when the CIA or the US military could launch drone strikes outside war zones.
The new guidelines do not augur well for Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The news has generated intense criticism in Pakistan’s Senate.
The United States needs to understand that waging a war using drone strikes, special operations and sophisticated surveillance is actually counterproductive and is encouraging a new arms race, in addition to sowing the seeds for terrorism that is becoming increasingly violent. Moreover, a reliance on drone attacks has had adverse effects that have not been properly weighed against the tactical gains associated with killing terrorists.
The United States’ claim that drones are an effective tool that minimizes civilian casualties is, to me, a distorted account of counterterrorism and does not take into consideration of the ground realities.
According to reports, since 2004, an estimated 300 drone strikes launched by the Obama administration have killed more than 3,000 people—at least 891 of whom were identified as civilians.
Despite Pakistan’s criticism, the CIA has increased its use of drones. This month alone, seven drone strikes killed nearly 40 people, 11 of whom are thought to have been civilians.
The US manages to spin the number of civilian casualties because of a controversial method of counting the dead. All young men killed in a strike zone are tagged as militants unless clear evidence emerges that they were not.
Unhindered drone strikes in different parts of Pakistan show CIA drones targeting mosques, non-combatants and even funeral processions. With no international agencies monitoring the attacks, no one really knows how many deaths have been caused by drones in remote areas inhabited by poor and helpless citizens.
With drones continuing to hover over Pakistan, the strikes will have a devastating effect on local populations and serve as a grim indicator of Pakistan’s helplessness and subservience to the United States.
Click here to read a report on how drones devastate lives and tear the social fabric of poor, helpless communities.
Sources: RT / The Washington Post
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