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Drone strikes kill 50 civilians for every Al Qaeda leader

Drone with rockets

Drone with cameras and rockets

Dr. David Kilcullen, a former Australian soldier who served in Iraq as a top advisor to General David Petraeus has called on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee (April 2009) to stop ‘drone’ attacks over Pakistan, saying they are counterproductive.

When a congressman asked him what the U.S. government should do to win in Pakistan, the experienced counterinsurgency man simply said: “We need to call off the drones

“I realize that they do damage to the Al Qaeda leadership. 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.”

Kilcullen, who is also an anthropologist, referred to the culture of the tribesmen in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area: “Using robots from the air … looks both cowardly and weak,” to the Pashtun people who have kept at bay or defeated all comers from Alexander the Great to the Soviet Union in their mountainous homeland.

Pakistanis from government officials to journalists have long demanded the U.S. stop the drone attacks. They have argued that it violates Pakistani sovereignty that it is strange to kill civilians of a country who is your ally, and that it doesn’t work.

In an interview with a U.S. newspaper quoted by the Pakistani website, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, made the same point. He argued that the continuing drone attacks were causing anger among locals, thus ”creating more Taliban.”

“They kill more civilians than we do” justification by US Corporate media

Meanwhile the Corporate Media in the US have their own take on the deaths of civilians. In a CNN article on July 10th 2009 entitled “U.S. Drones Have al Qaeda On the Run“, David Martin states:

In..a..document posted on the Web, a top al Qaeda commander writes: “The harm is alarming. The matter is very grave.” (no link or reference provided)

In the past year, the CIA has flown more than 50 drone strikes in Pakistan, killing half of al Qaeda’s top leaders and hundreds of its fighters. One senior official said the central leadership of al Qaeda is under more pressure now than at any time since the bombing of Tora Bora in 2001. The document blames the accuracy of the strikes on “spies … (who) have spread throughout the land like locusts … So many brave commanders have been snatched away … so many hidden homes have been leveled.”

The predator strikes do cause civilian casualties, but one senior official claimed more innocent people have been executed by al Qaeda as suspected spies than killed by CIA drones.