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Drone-by-Drone

Sowing the Seeds of Hate in Pakistan

by ATIF K. BUTT

Lahore.

It’s been a decade when the US invaded Afghanistan with the world’s most modern and well-trained military force including troops of more than 40 countries equipped with latest weaponry. After spending a large span of ten years and billions of dollars, the US and its allies are not in a position to claim that they have completely taken over the control of Afghanistan. The recent attacks of Taliban on the US, British, German and Japanese embassies and the NATO headquarters in Kabul are evident that the foreign forces led by the US are unable to protect themselves and they are so vulnerable even in their stronghold that happens to be the capital of Afghanistan as well. The incident is not the only one of its kind but it is one of the incidents that occur almost every month in Kabul or in other cities of the war-hit country.

It’s a fact that the US and its allies cannot stay in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s support. Had Pakistan not provided its soil to the US-led NATO forces to invade Afghanistan, the history would have been written in a very different manner. From day one, Pakistan is working as a frontline ally of the US in the war on terror and they also have a history of healthy mutual relations. But now their relationship has come to a point where both of the allies are revisiting their terms of engagement with each other. Opinion makers and parliamentarians in Pakistan feel that the drone attacks inside Pakistani territory are fuelling hatred against America. This has also been conveyed to the US administration many times that these attacks are affecting the public opinion in Pakistan negatively.

The statistics show that civilian casualties during the drone attacks are more than double as compared to the number of militants that were killed by this unmanned weapon. Even many innocent children have lost their lives due to these attacks. The civilian killings are really condemnable and they are totally unacceptable, no matter you call it collateral damage or what. Even the US administration knows that the attacks are against the international law as they are killing the innocents more in number. Besides hatred against the US, these attacks have become a source for the promotion of militant ideology in the areas where they have killed women and innocent children. Instead of chasing the militants with drones, if the US had spent even half of the amount, that it had invested into the drone technology for the Afghan-bordering areas of Pakistan, to promote education, the scenario would have been very different today.

The recent drone attack on a girls’ high school in North Waziristan’s Miranshah area is first of its kind as it has hit an educational institution. Had it been a working day the damage could be far more than expectation. This incident could become another bone of contention between the two countries as Pakistan’s Foreign Office has condemned the attacked and has termed it as the violation of country’s sovereignty. The FO also summoned Political Counsellor of the US Embassy in Islamabad Jonathon Pratt and registered its protest with him. This kind of attacks and violations of the international law and Pakistan’s sovereignty might become a big trouble for the US and the NATO forces in the days to come.

An important summit of all the stake holders in Afghanistan is going to be held on 20 and 21 of this month to discuss the withdrawal of NATO troops from the war-torn country starting in the start of 2014. If the US administration did not realise that the drone attacks are not helpful for them and if such strikes continued, it might not be possible for Pakistan to participate in the NATO conference. In the recent months, Pakistan has already boycotted a very important meeting regarding the fate of Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, after an airstrike by the NATO helicopters on a check post killing 28 Pakistani soldiers. Moreover, the future drone strikes could also halt the possibilities of reopening of the NATO supply line in Pakistan.

Atif K. Butt is a Lahore-based journalist and can be accessed at atifk.butt@gmail.com.