Saturday, January 09, 2010

Two ways of looking at a Hellfire

Leah Farrall, a former intelligence analyst for the Australian federal police and current Ph.D. student, muses:
In regard’s to Jarret [Brachman]’s comment about ensuring hellfire missiles rain down, I’d point out that this is exactly what al Qaeda wants. I wrote about this in relation to Afghanistan in an op-ed I wrote for the Australian last year.  The same risk is present in dealing with AQAP, especially in Yemen.  They want a reaction, they want those hellfire missiles because they want a jihad.  Of course they aren’t likely to come out and say this, but at the end of the day their  attacks don’t give them that jihad, our reaction does.  That is, attacks are primarily designed to provoke a reaction, just like any other terrorist group. A reaction then provides legitimacy because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  On that note I’d, point out that  armed responses to al Qaeda have, throughout the organisation’s history, generated far more recruits than its attacks or its propaganda efforts.
In a different post, Farrall points to a piece "well worth reading" by Pakistani columnist Irfan Husain, who retails the claims of a scholar, Farhat Taj, who is native to Waziristan and claims that the people there welcome U.S. drone attacks:

“The people of Waziristan are suffering a brutal kind of occupation under the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It is in this context that they would welcome anyone, Americans, Israelis, Indians or even the devil, to rid them of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Therefore, they welcome the drone attacks. Secondly, the people feel comfortable with the drone attacks because of their precision and targeted strikes. [People prefer them to] the Pakistan Army’s attacks which always result in collateral damage.…”  [snip]

 "...Al Qaeda and the Taliban have done everything to stop the drone attacks by killing hundreds of innocent civilians on the pretext of their being American spies. They thought that by overwhelming the innocent people of Waziristan with terror tactics they would deter any potential informer, but they have failed…. Interestingly, no one in Pakistan has raised objections to killings [sic] of the people of Waziristan on charges of spying for the US. This, the people of Waziristan informed, is a source of torture for them that their fellow Pakistanis condemn the killing of terrorists, but fall into deadly silence over the routine murders of tribesmen."
Husain adds:
I have often wondered about this callous hypocrisy too. If we condemn the Americans so vociferously over the drone campaign, should we not be more critical of the thugs who are killing far more Pakistani civilians? And yet, it seems that our more popular Urdu anchorpersons and TV chat show guests reserve their outrage for Washington, while giving the Taliban and Al Qaeda a free pass over their vicious suicide bombings that have taken hundreds of innocent lives in recent weeks.
Farrall argues, in the op-ed she links to above, that al Qaeda always wants to instigate jihad -- wanted the U.S. to invade Afghanistan, wanted the U.S. to invade Iraq, wants the U.S. now to ramp up efforts in Afghanistan -- and, as the blog post excerpted above indicates, wants the U.S. to escalate in Yemen. Without such "crusader" targets it becomes irrelevant and loses recruits and trainees to hot spots not of its making. Also in this vein: Farrall has elicited and translated the claims of fabled jihadist Abu Walid al Masri that should the Taliban take over Afghanistan -- or solidify their hold over large swaths of it -- they would keep al Qaeda at arms length as "unwelcome guests." She seconds that claim in her op-ed, which argues that U.S. escalation in Afghanistan plays into al Qaeda's hands. She also asserts that drone attacks in Pakistan don't seriously damage al Qaeda.

Of course, the fact (if fact it is) that people in Pakistan's tribal areas welcome U.S. drone attacks does not mean that those attacks are in the U.S.'s strategic interest -- or even that they don't generate hatred for the U.S. in the rest of Pakistan, which they reportedly do, as the Pakistani government and media cries crocodile over the civilian deaths that according to Taj are strictly limited. It's no contradiction for Farrall to commend Husain's piece to her readers. The two observations almost juxtaposed on her blog do underscore how many different and contradictory interests and constituencies are at play in Afghanistan and Pakistan, though. By most accounts, too, most Afghans who come under Taliban sway hate them as much as Farhat Taj says the Waziristanis do.

No comments:

Post a Comment