US drone attacks in Pakistan 'backfiring,' Congress told
WASHINGTON - It seems better sense is beginning to prevail on a key adviser to U.S. Army leadership who just a couple of weeks ago was predicting the collapse of Pakistani state. David Kilcullen, an Australian who served in Iraq as one of the counter-insurgency warrior/theorists to Gen. David Petraeus', the head of American Central Command, now says that that the U.S. drone attacks inside Pakistan's territory were "cowardly" and should be called off as the strikes were creating more enemies than they eliminate.
President Barack Obama has embraced an escalation in the raids that was approved by his predecessor, George W. Bush, last summer. The CIA has carried out at least 16 Predator strikes in Pakistan in the first four months of this year, compared with 36 strikes in all of 2008, according to The Los Angeles Times. The missile strikes have killed about 161 people since Obama's inauguration, it said, citing reports from Pakistan.
During a congressional hearing earlier this week, when a congressman asked Kilcullen what the U.S. government should do in Pakistan, he got an answer that surprised him. Kilcullen said the missile strikes are backfiring and should be stopped.
The LA Times said, "Kilcullen's objection to the U.S. strategy isn't moral (he doesn't mind killing 'bad guys') or legal (most legal scholars consider 'targeted killing' acceptable under the law of war because Al Qaeda and the Taliban are at war with the United States). Kilcullen's objection is practical. He says the strikes are creating more enemies than they eliminate".
"I realize that they do damage to the Al Qaeda leadership," he told the House Armed Services Committee. But that, he said, was not enough to justify the programme. "Since 2006, we've killed 14 senior Al Qaeda leaders using drone strikes; in the same time period, we've killed 700 Pakistani civilians in the same area. The drone strikes are highly unpopular. They are deeply aggravating to the population. And they've given rise to a feeling of anger that coalesces the population around the extremists and leads to spikes of extremism. ... The current path that we are on is leading us to loss of Pakistani government control over its own population."
Another problem, Kilcullen says, is that "using robots from the air ... looks both cowardly and weak."
In the Pashtun tribal culture of honor and revenge, face-to-face combat is seen as brave; shooting people with missiles from 20,000 feet is not. And besides, Kilcullen says, "There are other ways to do it."
Kilcullen didn't elaborate on those "other ways," but intelligence experts. according to the dispatch say, they could include deploying covert teams of hit men on the ground (risky) and training Pakistani special operations units to do the job.