ACTION ALERT: Stop an Expanding US War in Pakistan
October 22, 2011
Tom Hayden / The Peace and Justice Resource Center
Slowly but surely, the US is creeping closer to a disastrous war in Pakistan. The peace movement and its political and media allies need to be ready. There is a growing community of activists and journalists protesting the aerial drone wars over Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. But the debate about drones cannot be isolated from the context of their use in the Long War as a substitute for US ground troops as a forward extension of Washington's military presence.
Cost of US Wars Since 2001
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An Expanding War in Pakistan
270 drone strikes and counting
Tom Hayden / The Peace and Justice Resource Center
(September 27, 2011) -- Slowly but surely, the United States is creeping deeper and deeper into a disastrous war in Pakistan. The peace movement and its political and media allies need to be ready. There is a growing community of activists and journalists already protesting and documenting the aerial drone wars over Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya.  But the debate about drones cannot be isolated from the context of their use in the Long War as a substitute for American ground troops and in response to peace pressure from the American public.
Important as these perspectives may be, the peace movement may lose the debate if drones are seen in purely moral or economic terms or as a loss of democratic transparency. The fact is, however, that the use of drones will endanger American lives and security as they inevitably provoke violent counter-attacks, such as those of December 25, 2009 (Detroit Metro Airport), February 2010 (guilty pleas in New York subway bombing plot), and May 1, 2010 (Times Square). The US already has a secret contingency plan to strike at 150 sites, nearly all in Pakistan, if another incident occurs that is traceable to any Pakistani source. 
The drones do not make America safer. They inevitably provoke blowback. They are not a way of waging war cheaply. They require massive investments in client states and "nation-building" on the ground. They kill people, but no victories are won from the air.
Obama has been warned about the drone strategy many times, even by his Afghanistan adviser Bruce Riedel, who privately told him in 2009:
"Predator drone strikes only work because CIA paramilitary teams have an ultra-secret presence on the ground in Pakistan. Without the local informants these teams develop, there would not be good signals intelligence so that the drones know where to target. This was a risky enterprise that might collapse overnight. So don't rely on drones... They look like a cheap way out, but they're not." 
Pakistan is on fire, writes Imtiaz Gul.  Between 2002-2009, suicide strikes in Pakistan rose from one to 90 per year, along with 500 bombings and ambushes in that single year.
Critics of the drone strategy include David Kilcullen, the top counterinsurgency adviser to General David Petraeus in Iraq, the Long War Journal, and the New America Foundation. These are not peaceniks, but skeptics of counterterrorism from the air. According to theLong War Journal:
• 256 of 266 drone strikes against Taliban and al Qaeda targets, which began in 2004, have been since January 2008, showing the increased reliance on the secret air war;
• Since 2006, there have been 2,090 "leaders", "operatives" from the Taliban, AQ and "allied extremist groups" killed, and 138 "civilians." The CIA insists that no civilians have been killed by drones since 2008, a claim that no independent observers, including the mainstream media, believe. (New York Times, August 11, 2011)
• The vast majority of the drone strikes have been in North and South Waziristan, with 89 percent inflicted on North Waziristan in 2010, the period when peace talks with the Taliban were embraced by most of the international community;
• In 2010, there was a massive shift in strikes against tribal areas administered by Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Nearly all the attacks since 2008 have been against areas represented by four Taliban leaders/factions: in addition to Bahadar, the Haqqanis, the Mehsuds, and Mullah Nazir. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are based in North Waziristan.
• The number of Taliban/al Qaeda leaders killed in these areas in 2004-2011 has been insignificant militarily: ten in the Haqqani network, seven in the Bahadar network, seven in the Mehsud network, one in the Hekmatyar network, etc.
The Long War Journal account concludes:
"The Pakistani government considers Nazir, the Haqqanis, Bahadar, and Hekmatyar to be 'good Taliban' as they do not carry out attacks against the Pakistani state. All of these Taliban factions shelter al Qaeda and various other terror groups."
The inescapable conclusion is that Bahadar, Nazir, the Haqqanis and Hekmatyar -- warlords all -- are fighting against US forces in their traditional regions of influence in Afghanistan, and would lessen or cease fighting if the United States followed a timetable for withdrawal from those areas.
Does that mean the Taliban or its multiple factions and warlord allies will take over Kabul if the US withdraws? Not necessarily, unless the fragile, corrupt and dysfunctional Karzai regime simply implodes. But according to an insightful analysis in the Asian Times by Brian Downing, it is more likely that Afghanistan will be "carved up" by regional powers with vested interests. In his scenario, "the regional powers, especially Pakistan, will use their influence with the Taliban to convince them to limit their ambitions to the south and east and accept a settlement with President Hamid Karzai at the helm in Kabul." This is the opposite of the current US military agenda. (April 27, 2011)
Second, Iran and Turkey are likely to weigh in to "press reluctant Afghan [allies] to accept the settlement."
Third, the regional powers -- Pakistan, China, Iran and Turkey -- "will help to form a rentier state to govern the country," as has happened often in Afghanistan's history. A rentier state generally is defined as one supported by external funding and inputs far more than internally generated revenues. Afghanistan currently has little economy beyond its illegal heroin production and the military investments of the US and NATO.
Fourth, the same regional powers will cooperate and sometimes compete in developing Afghanistan resources, which include mineral resources and pipelines from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea.
Geopolitically, Pakistan and China share a common interest in limiting the presence of India in Afghanistan. A majority-Hindu India is America's chief ally in Afghanistan, having backed the Northern Alliance interests during the past decade. Pakistan is in a state of "cold peace" with India, while China already operates a copper mine, and is building railroads along with a naval base on the Arabian Sea.
Iran, which has a long and porous border with Afghanistan, has close ties with the Northern Alliance forces (Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, etc.) and "loathes the Taliban, which massacred thousands of Shiites, killed several Iranian diplomats in Mazar-I-Sharif in 1998, and contributes mightily to [Iran's] drug problem." Iran, which originally helped the US oust the Taliban, now would agree to "a settlement that restrained the Taliban, opened economic opportunities, and expelled the US." Like China, Iran's Persian past casts a cultural legacy across Central Asia.
Where does all this leave the United States and NATO? Quite simply, in the dilemma of both spreading and fighting a contagion of Islamic resistance at the same time. Facing military stalemates -- at best -- in Iraq and Afghanistan, while teetering towards escalation in Pakistan and beyond. A budget crisis, which includes no spending for another war. And a White House worried about who will be blamed for the likely quagmires.
De-escalation, an exit strategy, is the only way out of the rabbit hole.
 The first American drone strike against Libya was April 23, as reported by Reuters and ABC News.
 Woodward, Bob. Obama's Wars, p. 46.
 Woodward, Bob. Obama's Wars, pp. 206-207.
 Gul, Imtiaz. The Most Dangerous Place, 2009.
ACTION ALERT: No US Escalation in Pakistan
The September 22 testimony of Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, may well "pave the way… to new unilateral military actions inside Pakistan," including more drone strikes and, "even cross border raids into Pakistan to root out insurgents from their havens." (New York Times, September 22-23, 2011)
After Mullen’s testimony, the Heritage Foundation immediately called for aggressive military and diplomatic escalation. (Christian Science Monitor, September 26, 2011) House Republicans are pushing an open-ended authorization for war against any insurgents anywhere in the world "associated" with the Taliban or Al Qaeda.
Enough is enough. Escalation in Pakistan is not in the national security interest of the United States. Already our drone attacks have provoked two terrorist near misses against American civilians, one at the Detroit airport on Christmas Day 2009 and another at Times Square on May 1, 2010. It is not in the economic interest of the United States; we cannot afford another trillion-dollar war. It is not in the moral interest of the United States; the drone attacks kill innocent people and inflame millions of Pakistanis against America.
The military pursuit of terrorist sanctuaries, first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan, has left behind thousands dead and wounded and only pushed the sanctuaries to new locations. Each escalation begets another. Besides Pakistan, our government is pursuing undeclared air wars against terrorist cells with drone attacks in Somalia and Yemen. (Washington Post, September 20, 2011)
It makes no sense to escalate attacks against the Pakistan sanctuaries of the Afghan Taliban while the US ends its combat role, gradually withdraws from Afghanistan, and supports a power-sharing arrangement with all parties. It is irrational to bomb the Taliban’s sanctuaries while inviting them to the peace table. A genuine diplomatic settlement requires a phased ending of the drone attacks as US troops phase out their role in Afghanistan.
Sending in ground troops backed by air power is as foolish as President Nixon’s 1970 invasion of Cambodia allegedly to wipe out Vietcong sanctuaries.
We, the undersigned, urge President Obama to keep his June 20, 2009 promise that "we have no intention of sending United States troops into Pakistan."
We oppose the looming threat of US cross-border raids into Pakistan, as well as the continued escalation of drone strikes. Peace cannot be won by lopsided Western military intervention, but only by negotiated compromise and regional diplomacy. As Pakistani journalist Zahid Hussain concludes, "a political settlement is the only endgame."
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan gradually wind down, now is the time to de-escalate the US war in Pakistan and adopt a diplomatic exit strategy.
Instead, the US is on the verge of sending ground troops into Pakistan as well as escalating its aerial drone attacks.
We call for bipartisan Congressional hearings to recommend a Pakistan peace strategy to the administration.
Sign the petition
The No US Escalation in Pakistan petition to White House, Members of Congress, Media, Committee Chairs, Peace and Justice Organizations was written by Tom Hayden and is in the category International Affairs at GoPetition. Contact author here.