The International Crisis Group (ICG) on Tuesday published a new report “Drones: Myths And Reality In Pakistan,” examining the ongoing war against militant groups located in Pakistan. The report calls on both the United States and Pakistan to come clean about the ongoing use of drones against suspected terrorists, saying that more than strikes are needed to end Pakistan’s ongoing problem with militants.
Since 2004, according to the ICG, at least 350 U.S. drone strikes have taken place on Pakistani soil, within the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). Complicating operations against militant groups based in the area, the vast majority of Pakistan’s laws simply do not apply to the FATA, with the region instead following its own set of tribal laws and codes. Given the lack of control Islamabad exerts, the FATA has long been a haven for armed groups, including those who strike across the border in Afghanistan, including Mullah Omar’s Taliban and the Haqqani Network, as well as the Pakistani Taliban, which strikes against Pakistan itself.
One of the major issues ICG raises regarding drone strikes in the area is the lack of firm intelligence about precisely who is being targeted. In place of firm data, the U.S. often utilizes what are known as “signature strikes” or “personality strikes.” Groups of men between 16-55 who meet a certain profile are often considered legitimate targets, based on “pattern of life” data including where they’ve traveled while under surveillance and whether or not they were in the vicinity of known targets when the strike occurred.
As the report details, Pakistan and U.S. are locked in delicate dance over the actual use of drones within Pakistan, each concealing the full truth from the public. The U.S. still won’t officially confirm that the CIA-run targeted killing program within Pakistan even exists. The IGC says Pakistan often displays behavior that “borders on the schizophrenic” when it comes to the drone program. The Pakistani government often claims to have no forewarning about the use of drones and publicly denounces many of the strikes, even with ample evidence that they provide permission for the operations to occur, especially when carried out against its enemies.
ICG suggests both Washington and Islamabad become more transparent about the relationship the two have on drone strikes, while shifting their policies away from relying solely on military options, and instead taking a more comprehensive approach to combating militancy: