Pulpit Bulls

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Archive for the ‘COIN’ Category

Are Unmanned Drones Counterproductive?

Posted by Eric on May 24, 2009


“The militants say that if the Americans want to come and fight, they should fight them face to face,” says Mahmood Shah, a retired brigadier who was once the top Pakistani official in FATA. Shah, a Pashtun himself, says the families of the drones’ victims are required under the tribal code to seek revenge, which makes them ideal recruits for militant leaders like Baitullah Mehsud, the Pashtun commander of the Pakistani Taliban. Mehsud, says Shah, “likes to boast that each drone attack brings him three or four suicide bombers.”

Critics of the drones ask if it makes sense for the U.S. to use them when every strike inflames Pakistani public opinion against a pro-U.S. government that is at the point of collapse. “If we wind up killing a whole bunch of al-Qaeda leaders and, at the same time, Pakistan implodes, that’s not a victory for us,” says David Kilcullen, a counterterrorism expert who played a key role in developing the surge strategy in Iraq. “It’s possible the political cost of these attacks exceeds the tactical gains.”

That’s from an article in TIME today. Read the whole thing, if you are interested. (You should be, it’s important!) I’ve been convinced for a while now that these type of airstrikes, which often carry high civilian casualty rates, turn populations against us and make the already difficult nature of COIN even harder to achieve. That the Obama administration has increased these operations is troubling.


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