Pakistan’s government publicly condemns these attacks, but has secretly shared intelligence with the United States and also allegedly allowed the drones to operate from a location in Pakistan.

Hundreds of attacks on targets in Pakistan have been made by the US government since 2004. The attacks, which are part of the US War on Terror campaign began during the presidency of George Bush and have drammatically increased during the Obama presidency. Pakistan’s government publicly condemns these attacks, but has secretly shared intelligence with the United States and also allegedly allowed the drones to operate from a location in Pakistan. To discuss this Voice of Russia joined on the phone by Tim Brown, Senior Fellow at Globalsecurity.org.

Tim, thank you so much for joining me on the phone line to talk about this. What do you make of this secret relationship between Pakistan and the CIA?

The reason the Pakistanis are upset is because there was a WikiLeaks table that was leaked that revealed that the Pakistanis have been secretly permitting these attacks to happen under certain circumstances, while publicly condemning them. And so, as a result of that embarrassment they’ve had to do something. And what they’ve done is basically ripped up domestic public support against the attacks, even though they are complicit in them. And as far as the United States is concerned, it is not a violation of international law here because these are not attacks on a sovereign territory, that is basically happening with the Pakistanis’ approval.

Yes, but then that approval was sort of a secret one. We see that there is some sort of bargaining happening there. On the one hand, the Pakistani authorities did not really reveal such secret cooperation with the CIA and then the CIA, as well, did not reveal that secret cooperation.

Right! That’s the whole point of it being secret. They don’t want to look like they’re helping us out.

Some analysts were saying that the CIA by waging this drone war was in fact diversifying its tactics, I mean from capturing those seen as terrorists and keeping them in detention facilities without trial to just killing them like this and committing those targeted attacks. Do you think that could be some reason?

There is a combination of facts. When the interrogation stops, and we are also trying to close down Gitmo, there is really no place where to put these people, even if we capture of them. And of course we can’t just send a seal team into some village where people can sniff out of a mile way. That is not a practical. The other problem is – the US Congress wants to have more oversight. So, the White House is shifting the entire program, the CIA’s portion of it, to the Department of Defense.

At the closest scrutiny of it, the problem is that if we will look at the drones and the combination of drones and missiles as a new technology, during the World War II we had hundreds of aircraft raids when Germany dropped thousands of bombs on strategic facilities, lots of innocent civilians have been killed and there was a war. During Vietnam thousands of the planes dropped thousands of the bombs. Then, during the first Gulf war we had precision guided bombs, dropping one bomb on one facility.

Now, we’ve got a precision where we are to fire a missile from an unmanned drone and hit a moving vehicle on a bumpy road. And so, the question is that the international tolerance for a collateral damage has gotten down to where you can’t kill accidentally a single innocent civilian without an outrage. That’s really what is happening, and also with the 24-hour news cycle.

At this point I’d like to bring in the numbers here. There has been a research conducted by the Nonprofit Bureau of investigative Journalism based in London. So, they have cultivated and here are their findings. The US has conducted 366 drone strikes since 2004 killing as many as 3581 people, including 884 civilians. So, the total is really high, I mean the price that Pakistan is paying for this secret cooperation is quite high.

Well, it all depends on what you determine as high.

Well, 884 civilians. And if we look at what’s happening in Gitmo, we know about the hunger strike of the inmates there, and of course in other detention facilities. Sometimes people are held there without any trial and we don’t know whether they are indeed criminals or not if they are kept there without any chance of a fair trial. And it will look at the situation here, I mean there could be a similar scenario here. We know that the people who are target killed by those drones, how do we know if they are indeed terrorists and they pose a threat?

First of all, it is not a court of law. The US intelligence does not operate under a concept of the unreasonable doubt or jury trial, they try to get rid of this. The United States takes extraordinary efforts to make sure that they have precision guided intelligence to precision guide the missions, unlike a lot of other countries that just indiscriminately kill people. Even so mistakes do happen and unfortunately innocent people are killed.

The numbers have gone down. If you look at any previous war, 3000 is quite a bit, that’s unfortunate, but it has gone down. And the rate now is gotten to be very-very low. In fact, the US drone operations take extraordinary efforts to make sure that they only attack a known militant once he is out of the village and that there are no innocent civilians. And also those militants don’t operate fair and go out to war. They surround themselves with family members and innocent civilians knowing that if they are attacked there are going to be dead women and children in the wreckage and that is going to have a negative public relations effect on the US. So, they don’t play fair, we have to play fair.

Tim, let me just ask you briefly because we are running out of time. Pakistan is only one month away from parliamentary elections. And the candidates who will be running in these elections are saying that they are happy about this drone situation. How do you expect things to develop in Pakistan post-parliamentary elections in May? Will there be an end to the drone program?

Very possibly. But yet remember that Pakistan is deliberately using their intelligence services to undermine the Afghan Government. They are operating hand-in-hand with the insurgents in Afghanistan. So, they are complicit too. The other thing I’d like to point out is that the drones and the missiles that they carry are just the weapons system. In just imagine snipers shooting rifles or seal teams going and grabbing and killing people in a raid, we have investigations that every single type of weapon inspired every single kind of war, it doesn’t mean no end to it. This is just a different kind of technology that happens to be very convenient, that’s one of the advantages it has. And also one of the drawbacks is that it draws a lot of scrutiny.(Eurasiareview)

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