CIA drones pounded Pakistani soil with renewed intensity during the first month of 2013, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s monthly report based on the ‘Covert Drone War’ project.
In a jarring display that fuelled the recent, heightened spate of violence in Pakistan, January saw six drone strikes in merely nine days – a number exceeded only by August 2012. Compared to the January of last year, the number of strikes doubled this year.
The report also covered Yemen and Somalia. Yemen saw eight drone strikes during the month, with none of them confirmed as US attacks. No operations were reported in Somalia.
In Pakistan, there have been a total of 362 US drone attacks since 2004 – most of them during the tenure of incumbent President Barack Obama: 310 or 85.6%.
Although it is difficult to ascertain the exact number of casualties, the Bureau believes 2,629 to 3,461 people were killed and 1,267 to 1,431 wounded. Of the total fatalities, 475 to 891 were civilians, including 176 children.
The January drone strikes killed 27 to 54 people, of which 0 to 2 were reportedly civilians. Three senior, high-value militants were also successfully hit.
The very first strike of the month killed prized target Mullah Nazir. Nazir had been on the CIA hit-list for a long time, and had been involved with multiple attacks on Nato and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.
Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) commander Wali Muhammad Mehsud was also killed during the month, as was senior al Qaeda commander Sheikh Yaseen al Kuwaiti, reportedly hit by eight missiles while at home with daughter and wife.
The Taliban characterised
The report also indicated a supposed classification of the Taliban into two categories – ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – by the Pakistani military and intelligence community. Maulvi Nazir was apparently labelled as one of the ‘good’ Taliban because his group did not carry out terrorist attacks within the country. Following the same line of reasoning, the TTP emerged as the ‘bad’ Taliban, responsible for numerous bloody attacks in Pakistani cities.
Brigadier Asad Munir, a retired commander of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has predicted that Nazir’s death may cause problems for the capital. Pakistan’s army cannot engage in combat with both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban at the same time, making peace dialogue with the ‘good’ Taliban essential.
Another distinguishing factor for the month of January was the muted public response against the drone strikes. In 2012, angry protests and loud displays of widespread public condemnation followed almost every strike. The year 2013 did not start off with the same response.
According to the Bureau, the improvement in US-Pakistan relations – complemented by the Mehsud’s killing, something that appeased Islamabad – may have influenced countrywide reactions.
Furthermore, the CIA also announced adding Maulana Fazlullah, commander of Swat Taliban, a group that claimed responsibility for shooting Malala Yousufzai, on the hit-list. Islamabad has long been calling on Nato and Afghan forces to take action against the particular outfit.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2013.