The Predator drone, with its pinpoint accuracy the Americans tell us, is the best weapon available to kill militants. The remote-controlled weaponised planes supposedly hit only the target and minimise the loss of innocent life. The drone may well live up to that description but its use, including which targets it hits, is still decided by fallible humans. Poor intelligence and rash decision-making is still the overriding factor in the use of this weapon. A report that the recently departed CIA station chief in Pakistan ordered a drone attack the day after CIA contractor Raymond Davis was controversially released from prison is sure to create further ill-will among the two countries. The report further stated that the timing of the attack was meant to send a message to the ISI and was carried out despite the rare objection of the US ambassador.
It is one of the worst kept secrets in the world that Pakistan has quietly acquiesced to the American use of drones. But this latest report clearly takes things too far and is sure to lead to further strains in an already beleaguered relationship. US military contractors and trainees have already been told to leave, and the movements of US diplomats have also been curtailed. In retaliation, the US slashed military aid to Pakistan and is reported to be mulling similar restrictions on Pakistani diplomats in America. The two countries are still nominally allies but the alliance is clearly dysfunctional for now.
The task ahead must ensure getting ties back on track. This will require understanding on both sides. The US must realise that its arrogant, go-it-alone attitude will hurt their fight against militancy and will only strengthen the hand of the Taliban and al Qaeda. Pakistan, for its part, must demonstrate that it is not playing a double game and is equally committed to eliminating militants. The rapprochement, if both sides desire it, can only take place if the intelligence agencies of both sides are on board. That, unfortunately, is the sticking point. The CIA wants to kill militants no matter what the cost while the ISI is trying to play both sides to maintain its influence in post-withdrawal Afghanistan. The task is for both to find some kind of common ground.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2011.
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