Peter Bergen, Patrick Doherty, and Ken Ballen write up the first comprehensive survey of public opinion in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas:
More than three-quarters of FATA residents oppose American drone strikes. Indeed, only 16 percent think these strikes accurately target militants; 48 percent think they largely kill civilians and another 33 percent feel they kill both civilians and militants. Directed by the Central Intelligence Agency, missiles are launched from unmanned drone aircraft in the FATA region of Pakistan. President Obama has dramatically ramped up the drone program, authorizing 122 so far during his administration, more than double the number authorized by President George W. Bush during his entire eight-years in office. This may help account for why Obama is viewed unfavorably by 83 percent of FATA residents in our poll.
A plurality of FATA residents consider the United States to be the party most responsible for the violence that is occurring in their region today. Nearly 80 percent of the people in FATA also oppose the U.S.-led “war on terror,” and believe its real purpose is to weaken and divide the Islamic world, while ensuring American domination. Only 10 percent thought the U.S. was motivated to defeat Al-Qaeda and its allies. Similarly, three-quarters of FATA residents thought that the continuing American occupation of Afghanistan was because of its larger war on Islam or part of an effort to secure oil and minerals in the region. 11 percent said it was because of the 9/11 attacks, and just 5 percent to prevent the Taliban from returning to power.
The good is that al-Qaeda is also unpopular, as are both the Afghan and Pakistani Talibans. FATA residents say “their opinion of the United States would improve if the U.S. increased visas for FATA residents and educational scholarships to America, withdrew the American military from Afghanistan or brokered a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” They also say health care and education would help, but to a lesser degree.
Maybe continuing to steadfastly ignore the stated views of the people in the relevant area — at the cost of billions per week — is the best way to build support for the United States and undermine our enemies. But I sort of doubt it.