Drone Strikes and How Insurgents Are Created
One more thing about the New America Foundation’s drone-strike report, which found that the drones have “only” killed Pakistani civilians one-third of the time. (We’re talking about “250 to 320″ civilians killed, according to the report.) One of the reasons the report exists is to push back against criticism of the program, such as the one offered by counterinsurgents Andrew Exum and David Kilcullen, both of whom are advisers to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. “Kilcullen and Exum advocated a moratorium on the strikes because of the ‘public outrage’ they arouse,” authors Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann write, saying that their analysis supports “quite different conclusions.”
Assume those figures are correct for a moment. Take a look at the latest installment of an extraordinary series by David Rohde, the New York Times correspondent taken prisoner by insurgents in Afghanistan for ten months. I’m holding off judgment until the series concludes in a few days, but this is significant. Here, Rohde describes his conversations with his captors, members of Sirajuddin Haqqani’s network in Miram Shah, the capitol of North Waziristan in Pakistan:
For the next several nights, a stream of Haqqani commanders overflowing with hatred for the United States and Israel visited us, unleashing blistering critiques that would continue throughout our captivity.
Some of their comments were factual. They said large numbers of civilians had been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories in aerial bombings. Muslim prisoners had been physically abused and sexually humiliated in Iraq. Scores of men had been detained in Cuba and Afghanistan for up to seven years without charges.
To Americans, these episodes were aberrations. To my captors, they were proof that the United States was a hypocritical and duplicitous power that flouted international law.
My emphasis. It’s worth remembering that the Haqqani network was not implacably opposed to the U.S., having once worked with the CIA. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2007 that the CIA reached out to him in 2002, only to have found that counterproductive military actions — in this specific case, arresting the brother of patriarch Jalaluddin Haqqani — pushed the organization into the hands of the insurgency.
Rohde’s experience rather starkly supports Exum and Kilcullen’s analysis. And indeed, while neither Bergen nor Tiedemann make this argument, it’s worth considering the utility of a program that has a 30-plus percent civilian death toll. The prospect that the drone strikes don’t exclusively kill civilians does not change the strategic consideration.
Oh, and you noticed the torture and Guantanamo considerations on the part of the Haqqani network, right?