Pakistan squashes US bid to expand Predator campaign

The Washington Post reported today that Pakistan is resisting US efforts to expand the US Predator campaign beyond the tribal areas and into Baluchistan.

The U.S. appeal has focused on the area surrounding the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban leadership is thought to be based. But the request also seeks to expand the boundaries for drone strikes in the tribal areas, which have been targeted in 101 attacks this year, the officials said.

Pakistan has rejected the request, officials said. Instead, the country has agreed to more modest measures, including an expanded CIA presence in Quetta, where the agency and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate have established teams seeking to locate and capture senior members of the Taliban.

The Washington Post notes that the Predator campaign is currently restricted to the tribal areas:

But Pakistan places strict boundaries on where CIA drones can fly. The unmanned aircraft may patrol designated flight “boxes” over the country’s tribal belt but not other provinces, including Baluchistan, which encompasses Quetta.

“They want to increase the size of the boxes, they want to relocate the boxes,” a second Pakistani intelligence official said of the latest U.S. requests. “I don’t think we are going to go any further.”

While the US has struck in most of the tribal agencies, it rarely hits targets outside of North and South Waziristan. Only 11 of the 199 strikes since the program began in 2004 have hit targets outside of North Waziristan. Here is the breakdown (see LWJ report, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010, for the data; the numbers below are current as of Nov. 20, 2010):

  • North Waziristan: 150
  • South Waziristan: 38
  • Bajaur: 3
  • Kurram: 3
  • Bannu: 3
  • Khyber: 1
  • Arakzai: 1

And, in fact, that “strike box” has been narrowing to North Waziristan. Of the 101 strikes this year, 92 have taken place in North Waziristan. Here is the breakdown for 2010:

  • North Waziristan: 92
  • South Waziristan: 7
  • Kurram: 1
  • Khyber: 1

Northwestern Pakistan is what is called a target-rich environment. There are cells and camps for al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Haqqani Network, Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Jihad Group, Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, and a host of other terror groups in Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Arakzai, and Mohmand (where no strikes have been recorded). This doesn’t include the settled areas of Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , such as Swat, Dir, Chitral, Nowshera, Peshawar, Bannu, and a host of other districts (Bannu is a settled district in this province; the three strikes there occurred in what are called the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas).

If the US is seeking to expand beyond the tribal areas, the city of Quetta wouldn’t be the main focus of the strikes. The US would want to strike Taliban forward command centers in Chaman and Gerdi Jangal, as well as camps in the districts of Zhob, Pishin, Killa Abdullah, Killa Saifullah, and others. And even if the US could hit targets in Baluchistan, Punjab province and Karachi in Sindh are rife with terror camps and safe houses. Pakistan is literally infested with terror groups, many of which are supported by the military and the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence directorate.

And this gets to the heart of the real problem with US strategy in Afghanistan as well as against al Qaeda. Pakistan remains the real problem in the region, while Afghanistan is a sideshow. As long as the Pakistani state shelters, supports, and covers for the Taliban and allied terror groups, and either refuses to act or refuses to allow the US to strike, Pakistan will remain the epicenter of terrorism.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Jimmy says:

    So this is how the devil machine works: Two sets of Jihadis are created in the Pak Army ISI terror machine. One set goes fighting in Afghanistan, Europe, North America and India. This set is under the control of Osama, Haqqani and Mulla Omar (Read: Pak Army ISI). The second set are sacrificial lambs (decoys) sent to the badlands of Pakistani tribal areas and Quetta, ready to be blown to bits through drones or captured by the so-called CIA, ISI co-operation teams. Basically just to fool the world of Pakistani ‘help’ in the war on terror. A few of these decoys are ‘promoted’ to dangerous Jihadi levels and captured just to show Pakistani help in capturing even high level Taliban. That is the reason Pakistan reacted so hysterically when NATO helcopters entered enemy territory not agreed to with beforehand with the ISI. That is why Pakistan resists enlargement of drone strike area. That is why ISI insists on its men accompanying any CIA team inside Quetta and that is why Osama is in Chitral and Mulla Omar in Karachi.
    Yes gentlemen, this is how the devil machine works!

  • g says:

    This is the thanks we get for allowing the delivery of 6 new F-16’s?

  • JRP says:

    I think Jimmy is spot on. One of the most succinct and insightful analyses I’ve read so far. We are being played for fools by Pakistani ISI and as a result thereof, sooner or later we are going to be hit again with a terror attack.
    The drone campaign really took off after the FOB Chapman/Khost disaster that befell CIA end of 2009. But ISI has managed to misdirect it; that is the sum and substance of Jimmy’s analysis and I agree with it fully.
    Instead of rewarding Pakistan, we should withdraw our Ambassador and cut off funding for an indefinite period so that an economic pinch begins to re-set ISI thinking and induces ISI to start throwing some truly big fish our way. Such action would be especially effective, if we first got assurances from countries like China that they would not step in to fill the financial void just to maintain Pakistan as a counterweight to India.

  • Charu says:

    “if we first got assurances from countries like China that they would not step in to fill the financial void just to maintain Pakistan as a counterweight to India”
    @JRP, why would China ever want to this? They are the ultimate winners here so long we are bled dry in these extended wars, while transfer our money wholesale to them and allow them to modernize their military. Besides, they are only carrying out a policy that we ourselves undertook for some 60 years in the region; which is now biting us in the ass.
    It is like hoping that Iran would not step into the void to maintain Iraq as a counterweight to Saudi Arabia.
    Pakistan’s (the Punjabi’s who rule it) worst fear is for the Pashtuns in its side joining up with the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and reducing their Punjabi empire into a rump state. This should be used to force them to fully cooperate with us. Either they are fully with us or we will encourage the redrawing of the British borders to give the Pashtuns something that they’ve always wanted. Like with home ownership, the Pashtuns will then be more occupied with their new country than with supporting international terrorism. Kurdish “autonomy” (and the relative peacefulness in Iraqi Kurdistan) should be the goal here. And China be damned.

  • Tim says:

    I can see a clear polarization of the world into two spheres of influence:
    Group 1: The US and its allies (Canada, Europe, Australasia, Japan, S.Korea, Israel and some middle east Islamic countries)
    Group 2: China, N.Korea and some Islamic countries with Jihadi culture (that includes Pakistan!). They are vultures waiting for the demise of democracies to extend rule of dictators, religious bigots, inflexible theocracies and Communism. Its a marriage of evil!
    India, Iran, ASEAN and Russia are up for grabs and are continuously re-aligning their policies to fit into one of these groups.
    South America, Central Asia and Africa are enjoying whoever’s attention they can get.
    It seems pretty clear India is moving slowly towards group 1, not surprising since China and most Islamic countries are causing it trouble. Iran seems moving towards group 2, since it is against the US and Israel and pro-china. Hence the latest outburst from Khomenei against Indian Kashmir, NATO in Afghanistan etc – to endear Iran to others in the hardline Islamic Sunni bloc. ASEAN seems to be steering towards US due to fear of China. Hence their recent friendly relations with the US and India. Russia is undecided, but with Pres. Obama’s nimble diplomacy of ‘Reset’ and START treaties, Russia seems not averse to come closer to group 1. Plus its ties to NATO, Europe are improving and it is similarly suspicious of China.
    I guess, once again there will be a cold war between these blocks. Pres. Obama seems the best US presidential candidate for this delicate diplomatic balancing act to stitch together a bloc of similar minded countries. Also Indian PM Manmohan Singh, British PM and the Russian leaders are doing a great job!
    Overall picture looks re-assuring to me as a citizen of group 1. Our democratic goverments seem to have woken up and started making the right or sensible foreign policy and strategic decisions. If these countries from group 1 were to maintain their unity somehow for the next 5-10 years, I believe we would be in a great position to win any future cold war or ‘clash of civilizations’!!

  • Max says:

    “where the agency and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate have established teams seeking to locate and capture senior members of the Taliban.”
    Translation: “Pakistan’s ISI has ‘minders’ who watch the CIA everywhere they go in Pakistan and report their goings-on to their allies in the Taliban to make sure they aren’t captured”

  • Chris says:

    So, what is it we get out of this “deal” with Pakistan? We send them hundreds of millions in aid, and we get to keep pouring money and lives into Afghanistan while the Pakistanis tell us we can’t attack the people directing the fighters in Afghanistan who are killing our soldiers. This agreement leads to continued fighting in Afghanistan while Pakistan shelters the terrorists who are directing the fight against us. Do we agree to this because Pakistan has nukes and threatens that their security will be “reduced” if we don’t allow this charade to continue? What do they have on us that we continue this?
    What are our options? Do we have to continue this absurd deal for years until we quit Afghanistan and the sheltered terrorists move back in from their secure areas in Pakistan? Does anyone have an alternative to this crazy situation?

  • Villiger says:

    As NATO runs out of patience, it can give Pakistan an ultimatum:
    Of course,Pakistan is also vulnerable in Baluchistan.
    If such a policy pushes Pakistan towards China’s arms, so be it. Pakistan is a problem, a very big problem. If China wants this headache, this cancer, let them have it. Better China’s equity than the US’s debt.
    Also, clearly better for the US to partner with India, while engaging China and gauging its sense of responsibility as a new emerging superpower.
    The present status quo is untenable for the US and is degrading.

  • Spooky says:

    I agree, for the reasons stated, to the suggestion made by an above poster to use the Pashtun nationalism against Pakistan and threaten Islamabad with turning it into a rump state.

  • ramgun says:

    Good analysis Tim. Overall, the world does seem to be moving towards these two clusters.
    However, too many things are still fluid here for it to be a clear Cold War. The US balancing game with Pakistan is certainly not endearing it to India or Iran or Russia. Even otherwise, to India it is far from clear whether it is better to have close association with China or an alliance against it.
    Similarly, Korea and Japan are finding the US too weak in its support of them against China.
    Moreover, the several despotic rulers of the Middle East are hardly popular with their people. These people identify more with Cluster 2 than with Cluster 1. So some of these regimes may flip pretty quickly.
    Finally, Europe itself has been shown to be far from homogeneous. Germany is cosying up to Russia, much to the alarm of Poland and other East European countries.

  • Tim says:

    I agree with Jimmy completely. Pakistan, China, North Korea and Iran are war-mongers and aiders of terrorism in the whole world. It is the real axis of evil! It seems today N.Korea fired artillery shells at an inhabited island of S. Korea. Unless this action has the strong backing of China, N.Korea would not have dared such a move. Similarly, without the strong support of China, Pakistan Army ISI would not be in a position to squeeze, harass and blackmail NATO and India. Iran backs Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite insurgents and terrorists in Afghanistan only on the strong support of China!
    Personally, I have stopped buying Chinese goods, however cheap they are! That is the way every citizen can retaliate to our soldiers being killed by the very dollar and Euro we spend on Chinese goods.

  • Charu says:

    Samuel Huntington, the real life Hari Seldon, foresaw this clash nearly 20 years ago. He predicted the Chinese-Islamic alliance and that India and Russia would ally with the West. His prediction that South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Japan would ally with China is debatable; he may have underestimated historical antagonisms, the rapid Christianization of South Korea and the ancient Indic (Buddhist) influences in that region.

  • Charu says:

    @ramgun: “to India it is far from clear whether it is better to have close association with China or an alliance against it.”
    In this regard China made up its mind long ago with its string-of-pearls encirclement of India, while the Indian elephant sluggishly lumbers on making up its mind. Chinese hot-and-cold diplomacy over its border disputes with India have been masterful and psychologically astute. India, unlike China, also has a ready-made fifth column within; the communists and their fellow travelers.

  • ramgun says:

    @Tim: “Pakistan, China, North Korea and Iran are war-mongers and aiders of terrorism in the whole world. It is the real axis of evil!”
    I dont know about the moral judgment of good versus evil. As it takes two hands to clap, neither cluster has shown itself to be the biggest upholder of moral values in the world. It is self preservation pure and simple. If you call China an aider of terrorism, I call US an even bigger perpetrator of terrorism through its actions in West Asia and Africa.
    @Charu: Even then, India’s position is not clear. On one hand you have an aggressive China. On the other a two-timing US. Not really an enviable time choosing between them!

  • Jimmy says:

    Thanks JRP and Tim:
    Actually, the following intelligence report by an Indian Intelligence blog confirms all that we have been discussing. Basically, the China-Pakistan alliance to destabilize and terrorize Afghanistan and harm NATO
    You are right, Indians have been sleeping over continued aggression of the Chinese. It seems the Indian intelligence is miles ahead in recognizing the devil that is Pak Army ISI and China, but the political leadership is only just waking up to this threat to itself and the whole world. The same is with Russia. But now that they are waking up, it seems all the like minded countries (according to Tim’s comment above) are slowly but surely moving closer together to unitedly fight this monster alliance!

  • Infidel4LIFE says:

    We will have a nuclear exchange with P-stan after a catastrophic attack on US soil is traced back here. God help us if its a nuke, coz a response will be demanded. The P-stani’s would have almost no country if they didn’t have “Pashtunistan” take a look. The Paki’s are playing us. Have been for years.


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