The case of the mysterious drone

Published: June 4, 2016
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PHOTO: ONLINE

PHOTO: ONLINE

PHOTO: ONLINE The writer is a retired brigadier and a former president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute

With the Taliban acknowledging that Mullah Mansoor — their last Emir Mullah Omar’s successor — died due to a drone attack close to Noshki, Maulvi Haibatullah, reputedly a non-combatant, has been hurriedly nominated by the Shura as his successor. When Mullah Omar’s death finally became public, there was considerable infighting among those competing to succeed him. Omar’s brother and son were among the competitors. Mansoor, however, had the reputation of being the least intractable and more amenable to talks.

With the Afghan Taliban splintering even while Omar’s death was not public, speedy action was necessary and, with the support of like-minded well-wishers, Mansoor was nominated by the then Shura.

Over time, Mansoor overcame those who continued to oppose him and, slowing the splintering, began reuniting the various groups of the Taliban. However, in order to do this, he was forced to take a harder line on peace talks. This was partially due to the inroads made by the hardest of hardliners, the Islamic State, in Afghanistan.

Consequently, Washington and Kabul began expressing their impatience to Islamabad. Despite numerous efforts to explain the reasons for Mansoor’s conduct and seeking more time, Washington decided to sign his death warrant.

Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the CIA appears to have lost any remaining vestige of human intelligence. Although unmatched in its technological ability, which provides it with an unparalleled and multi-faceted electronic intelligence, it has virtually no human intelligence of its own resource. For human intelligence or Humint, it has become dependent on cooperation of intelligence services of friendly countries, or on purchasing Humint from the market. For the latter, it frequently takes recourse to outsourcing to private security companies; the largest beneficiary of this outsourcing is the infamous company known as Blackwater or, more recently, XE.

The first drone strike by the US in Pakistan was in 2004 but drone operations actually picked up pace from 2008. The total number of drone strikes in Pakistan is estimated to be well over 400. Until May 21, when Mansoor was executed, not one had been in Balochistan. It is understood that whatever agreement that exists between the US and Pakistan since the Musharraf era, included the understanding that Balochistan would not be hit. This was a red line, but one that the US decided to cross. Its official version is that it was aware that Mansoor’s family was dwelling in Iran. Since it apparently lacked Humint support from the ISI in this venture, the US picked up the “electronic signature” of a “possibility”, when it left Kandahar and confirmed it to be Mansoor, when he reached the (known) location of his family.

Then the US stayed with the target till it crossed the Iran-Pakistan border and at an unpopulated spot, which was at a location where it might not be spotted quickly (in fact, some hours elapsed between the strike and its discovery), the target was “taken out”.

From my modest understanding of US electronic surveillance capabilities, this is not merely a plausible, but a very likely, accurate acknowledgement of what happened. Furthermore, after the army chief’s hard words to the US ambassador, I discount the possibility of duplicity in our government’s claim that it was unaware. When John Kerry claimed that the prime minister and the army chief “knew”, I take it that they were informed after the hit or while it was taking place. If this be so, two questions come to mind. First, why was it necessary for the hit to be executed in Balochistan? After all, it could have been equally effective in Iran or Afghanistan.

The only possible explanation that occurs to me is that the US had some points to make: a) that there were no longer any red lines for US drone strikes and, by extension b) that the security situation of Balochistan is no longer a US priority.

An amazing thing happened when this attack occurred. While everything and everybody in the vehicle was burnt beyond recognition, a new passport with a CNIC of the passport holder, Wali Muhammed by name but the photograph on it was that of Mansoor, fell a few yards away, intact and un-singed. The second question arises, therefore, how did that happen? A far-fetched possibility is that Mansoor was playing with it when the vehicle was hit and, in an unconscious gesture flung the passport out of the window of the (air-conditioned?) vehicle. I must admit, I broach that possibility with utmost scepticism. If this is not a real possibility, then the only alternative is that it was left there to be found. If it was left for that purpose, the only object of this that I can think of is to again malign Pakistan and its armed forces before the court of international and domestic opinion.

If Mansoor had a Pakistani CNIC, passport and a place of residence here, it puts Pakistan in a very awkward position before the entire world, but before Afghanistan most of all. When I was researching for my book on OBL’s assassination, I concluded that we were being subjected to a malicious propaganda campaign to malign the army in general and the duo of Generals Kayani and Pasha, in particular. I get the feeling that a similar thing may be afoot right now and that this may be the beginning of a propaganda campaign targeting our armed forces.

Moreover, I held the view that since last year, the US had ceased its hybrid war targeting Balochistan and I had hoped that our amity would last. I believe this attack puts paid to my last hopes from the US — the “enemy-who-allies-us-when-he-wants-to”.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • numbersnumbers
    Jun 5, 2016 - 4:42AM

    Note that the author is conveniently vague about just HOW Pakistan was the victim of a “malicious propaganda campaign” after Osama bin Laden was discovered to be living (for five plus years with his extended family of 20!) in Abbottabad around a kilometer from the PMA!
    All can go to Al-Jazeera and read the Abbottabad Comission Report about OBL, though this information is suppressed in Pakistan!Recommend

  • mind control
    Jun 5, 2016 - 8:10AM

    I get the feeling that a similar thing may be afoot right now and that this may be the beginning of a propaganda campaign targeting our armed forces.

    Ah!

    A. First they (Islamophobes) conspired against the Faith.

    B. Then they conspired against the Citadel of the Faith (aka Pakistan).

    C. Now they are conspiring against Guardians of the Faith (who swear by Jihad-fi-Sabilillah).Recommend

  • Feroz
    Jun 5, 2016 - 10:12AM

    Panic at such extreme levels within the terror network and their hidden supporters, has never been witnessed before. The noose is clearly tightening, causing difficulty in breathing now, lack of oxygen supply to the brain having killed the facility of rational thought ages ago. May the Almighty be merciful on the purveyors of terror and violence.Recommend

  • Prada
    Jun 5, 2016 - 11:36AM

    It is a little disingenuous to portray the US in the way you have. Bhutto started a “Jihadi” cell in the ISI even before the Soviet invasion to increase leverage in Afghanistan. Over the last decade US has renewed its network of humint operatives substantially in the region. But, how extensive it is, is anybody’s guess. I have no doubt that Mullah Mansoor was taken out with the help of boots on the ground. Stealth drones might have been used too.

    Pakistan’s plight is the result of some serious miscalculations by the decision makers in uniform. America like every other nation looks after its own interest. When the Soviets left, the responsibility for resettlement of the Mujahideen was taken by the agencies who refused to disband them or otherwise resettle them. They decided they might have other uses for them in the East. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out the way they expected.Recommend

  • Lalit
    Jun 5, 2016 - 3:18PM

    How does finding and killings of known and wanted terrorists in Pakland by US is a ”malacious propaganda campaign” against the former’s Army chief and ISI chief ?Are these terrorists planted by US ?And why does it not target the PM of Pakistan ?Who is stopping almighty Pak Army from downing these satanic drones?who could have planted (as implied by esteemed author) the CNIC on Mullah Mansoor
    ‘s charred Caracas and who found it ?How is author so sure that Pak Army chief and PM were told later or during the strike while US is clearly implying otherwise? How was Mansoor so easily able to navigate through three countries?why was he hit on Pakistan more so Baluchistan land ?
    Lots of questions to answer….but one thing is clear,this article is a shoddy attempt by ISPR to deflect the embarrassment they have faced time and again…frankly I have lost the count.Recommend

  • mind control
    Jun 5, 2016 - 3:20PM

    When I was researching for my book on OBL’s assassination, I concluded that we were being subjected to a malicious propaganda campaign to malign the army in general and the duo of Generals Kayani and Pasha, in particular. I get the feeling that a similar thing may be afoot right now and that this may be the beginning of a propaganda campaign targeting our armed forces.

    Ah!

    A. First they conspired against the Faith.

    B. Then they conspired against the Citadel of the Faith (aka Pakistan).

    C. Now they are conspiring against Guardians of the Faith.Recommend

  • syed baqar ahsan
    Jun 5, 2016 - 5:17PM

    For Pakistan u can make any type of story in mind fits in any where in the world for the connivance of USA to challenge or appreciate on any forum whether we are friend or foe. Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jun 5, 2016 - 6:39PM

    Half truth is more dangerous than a complete lie. Recommend

  • Reader
    Jun 5, 2016 - 7:11PM

    There is no respect for beggers. US was, is or never will be Pakistan’s Ally or friendRecommend

  • Unknown
    Jun 5, 2016 - 11:42PM

    @Ch. Allah Daad:

    And you only believe on full lies from your sarkar for Raiwand Recommend

  • RubyJacky
    Jun 6, 2016 - 7:41AM

    The author has sad imagination for things. US is a waning power with no HUMINT, but someone dropped Mansour’s passport on the road after the killing.

    US could have targeted him in Iran but did not, because it wants to send a message?!

    A more plausible reason is that US and Pakistan have a formal agreement on dronestrikes which they deny publicly.Recommend

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