Truly informative spot on PRI’s The World this afternoon about the ongoing drone warfare in Afghanistan and Pakistan featuring Wired magazines Noah Shachtman. Here is a link to the PRI piece, here is a link to Wired magazine’s coverage, and here is the interview itself (.mp3) in case you have problems reaching it. Money quote in the interview (about 4 mins in):
“There are certainly very different rules that apply in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, the air strikes have got to be very tightly constrained. You really can’t drop a bomb in Afghanistan without layers and layers and layers of approval and you have to be very careful about civilian casualties. In Pakistan, if the media reports are at all correct, you’re having two-three-four dozen people get killed at a time in these drone attacks, and let me tell you, they are not all terrorists or militants. There’s gotta be some civilians involved when you’re getting that many people killed at once. So there’s a very different feel to the air war in Pakistan and they don’t seem to be taking the kind of care that they do in Afghanistan.”
The reason I tell you this is because of this report:
A senior U.S. counterterrorism official has confirmed the identity of a top Al Qaeda operative killed in Pakistan on Friday.
The U.S. official told Fox News that the operative is Saleh al-Somali, the network’s external operations chief for plots outside Afghanistan and Pakistan.
A U.S. government official said early Friday that an American drone strike killed an Al Qaeda operative in western Pakistan. The official did not identify the target of the attack. Meanwhile, intelligence officials confirm that the pace of attacks by such unmanned aircraft has increased during the Obama administration.
While you hear all the anchors giddily report Saleh’s demise, remember what Shachtman said about the outcome of our drone policy- dead civilians. I’m just not sure that killing a few people in leadership is worth radicalizing the entire Pakistani public, which is what I suspect is happening when you are killing dozens of civilians at a time. We have near riots in the US when we try to discuss providing health care coverage for everyone in the country. Can you imagine the reaction if every couple of days we lost twenty people to a foreign air strike?
*** Update ***
Here is a thought experiment for you. How many Israeli citizens were killed by rocket attacks before Israel could no longer tolerate it and launched the brutal Gaza incursion at the beginning of the year?
Take a guess.