CNN delicately reports that “Two suspected U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region killed 18 alleged militants Monday,” bringing the total number of alleged drone attacks to 108 for the year. That’s more than double the total from 2009. Calling these attacks “suspected” or “alleged” is a formality required until official confirmation is given, because unless the Smurfs have an air force and the Taliban did something to provoke them, unmanned aerial vehicles are a lot smaller than jet fighters or bombers. The U.S. military doesn’t comment on drone strikes, so the southern provinces of Pakistan are filled with a lot of allegedly dead terrorists who are suspected to have died with the sound of high-pitched little jet engines ringing in their ears.
This increased drone activity is good news, because it represents the only strategy likely to bring victory in Afghanistan. Warfare is always a contest of will, and rolling up cannon fodder in the hills of Afghanistan is not going to break the Taliban’s will in time to meet our deadline for withdrawal – a problem exacerbated by the Obama Administration’s insistence on telling them when the deadline will be. To accomplish our goals, we have to take out the leadership, and they’re hanging out in Pakistan.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousuf Raza Gilani, is not entirely thrilled with the swarm of drones buzzing through his airspace, telling Geo News the strikes were “multiplying the problems of Pakistan.” He urged his citizens to “point out the terrorist elements as it is their national responsibility,” but the biggest problem of Pakistan is that not everyone sees it that way… pointedly including many members of the ISI intelligence service.
As the WikiLeaks story illustrates, sometimes the governments of unstable nations must say one thing for public consumption, but do entirely more productive things behind the scenes, to work with an American ally they cannot openly embrace. 108 precision drone strikes are hard to pull off without a degree of cooperation from Pakistani authorities. 108 combat air missions with American bombers are out of the question. The fate of Afghanistan depends largely on who wins the game of hide-and-go-seek-and-destroy in the mountains of North Waziristan.
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