Pak whining on attacks draws rebuke from US
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WASHINGTON: Shut up and put up, is the curt message the United States is sending Pakistan after Islamabad’s incessant whine about drone attacks on its territory. Washington says the complaints are hypocritical considering Pakistani leaders support the strikes in private and the hits are clearly damaging terrorists with minimum civilian casualties.
In a public rebuke to the Pakistani leadership on Thursday, a leading US lawmaker, supported by the Obama administration, told reporters after a visit to the region that he was ''very unhappy'' with the vocal criticism of the drone strikes from top officials in Islamabad when in private they "not only understand and acquiesce but in many cases support the drone attacks."
Washington, US Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin, told reporters in a conference call, would prefer "a silence on their part rather than a public attack on us that creates real problems for us in terms of the Pakistani public and helps create some real animosity" against the United States.
"I just think it's wrong for them, I've told them that to their face," said Levin, who met in Pakistan with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan's army chief of staff Ashfaq Kayani.
Gilani, Kayani, and interior minister Rehman Malik are seen as part of the hard-line clique that has adopted the tactic of whipping up public hysteria against US and India with phony, malicious charges, including feigned outrage about drone strikes and charges of interference in Baluchistan, to win the support of the fundamentalist constituency and rally a demoralized army.
The tactic has led even Pakistani civil society activists like Asma Jehangir to contend that their government is engineering a hostile atmosphere even as the people desire peace. India’s foreign secretary Nirupama Rao too alluded to it at a conference in New Delhi on Thursday when she accused Pakistan of using “terrorist ideologies to promote unscrupulous political or institutional agendas."
Levin’s rebuke has been quietly endorsed by the Obama administration, which has launched a drone strike after each visit by a US interlocutor in the past fortnight during which Pakistan complained about the attacks. Seven drone strikes have followed the December 30 attack in Khost that killed seven CIA and affiliated personnel, including one on Thursday targeting Hakimullah Mehsud, who evidently engineered suicide strike on the CIA forward base by a Jordanian doctor.
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There were conflicting reports about the fate of Mehsud, with some Taliban spokesman contending he had escaped the attack.
The US has now launched a counter-campaign to show that contrary to exaggerated Pakistani accounts of civilian casualties, the drone strikes have actually attrited terrorists based in Pakistan.
According to the blog Long War Journal, which tracks the drone strikes, the ratio of civilian to al-Qaida casualties in 2009 was one to ten (43 to 463) and not the other way around as suggested by the Pakistani leadership. Unmanned aerial vehicle attacks have been "extremely successful" at "knocking off a significant number of Taliban leaders and Al-Qaeda leaders," Levin said.
The US assertion has been backed by some of Pakistan’s civil society activists not manipulated by the hard-line militaristic leadership. According to Farhat Taj, an Oslo, Norway-based researcher originally from the Fata region, contrary to the anti-US propaganda spread by Islamabad, the people of Waziristan, suffering from occupation by Al Qaeda and Taliban, actually welcome the drone attacks.
''They see the US drone attacks as their liberators from the clutches of the terrorists into which, they say, their state has willfully thrown them,'' Taj said in a recent article in which she said her kinsmen described the Pakistani intelligence agencies and the Taliban as ''two sides of the same coin.''
Washington has apparently cottoned on to the Pakistani perfidy judging by Levin’s public dressing down. Emboldened by the findings, the Obama administration has cranked up the attacks in recent days, unleashing a drone strike every other day in January this year. The stepped-up attack follows the more than 50 strikes that the Obama administration initiated in 2009, more than all the attacks ordered by the Bush administration during its eight years.
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