Mehreen Zahra-Malik | Reuters
The head of the Pakistani Taliban was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan on Friday, several security sources told Reuters, the latest in a series of blows to the country’s most feared militant group.
Hakimullah Mehsud, who was believed to be in his mid-30s and was one of Pakistan’s most wanted men, has been reported dead several times before.
But late on Friday, several intelligence, army and militant sources across Pakistan confirmed he had been killed in the drone strike in the lawless North Waziristan region.
“We can confirm Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in the drone strike,” said one senior security official.
Akbar Ahmed | The New York Times
WHEN people in Washington talk about shrinking the drone program, as President Obama promised to do last week, they are mostly concerned with placating Pakistan, where members of the newly elected government have vowed to end violations of the country’s sovereignty. But the drone war is alive and well in the remote corners of Pakistan where the strikes have caused the greatest and most lasting damage.
Drone strikes like Wednesday’s, in Waziristan, are destroying already weak tribal structures and throwing communities into disarray throughout Pakistan’s tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan. The chaos and rage they produce endangers the Pakistani government and fuels anti-Americanism. And the damage isn’t limited to Pakistan. Similar destruction is occurring in other traditional tribal societies like Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. The tribes on the periphery of these nations have long struggled for more autonomy from the central government, first under colonial rule and later against the modern state. The global war on terror has intensified that conflict.
These tribal societies are organized into clans defined by common descent; they maintain stability through similar structures of authority; and they have defined codes of honor revolving around hospitality to guests and revenge against enemies.
In recent decades, these societies have undergone huge disruptions as the traditional leadership has come under attack by violent groups like the Taliban, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia’s Al Shabab, not to mention full-scale military invasions. America has deployed drones into these power vacuums, causing ferocious backlashes against central governments while destroying any positive image of the United States that may have once existed.
American precision-guided missiles launched into Pakistan’s Pashtun tribal areas aim to eliminate what are called, with marvelous imprecision, the “bad guys.” Several decades ago I, too, faced the problem of catching a notorious “bad guy” in Waziristan. Read More
Nic Robertson | CNN
The Sabaoon School for boys in northern Pakistan is anything but average.
Nestled amid the bucolic charm of the Swat Valley’s fertile terraced fields and steeply rising crags it looks idyllic. But if you get up close, a harsher reality becomes clear.
Two army check-posts scrutinize visitors entering the sprawling site. Once inside, the high razor wire-topped walls around the classroom compounds create a feeling reminiscent of a prison.
The boys here, aged 8 to 18, were all militants at some point. Some are killers, some helped build and plant improvised explosive devices, and others were destined to be suicide bombers until they were captured or turned over to the Pakistani army. All of them are at the school to be de-radicalized.
Ninety-nine percent of the boys, I am told, have never heard of Osama bin Laden, despite the fact he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in the next valley over from here. What has radicalized these boys instead, the school’s director says, is what turns teenagers the world over to crime: poverty, poor education, limited prospects and often lack of parental control.
It is in this setting that the boys have made ready recruits for Taliban scouts who wean them on tales of the U.S. drone strikes that have killed scores of Pakistani women and children over the past few years. Read More
Declan Walsh | The New York Times
Pakistan militants punish accused informers aiding drone attacks by taping their confessions and executions.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — They are dead men talking, and they know it. Gulping nervously, the prisoners stare into the video camera, spilling tales of intrigue, betrayal and paid espionage on behalf of the United States. Some speak in trembling voices, a glint of fear in their eyes. Others look resigned. All plead for their lives.
“I am a spy and I took part in four attacks,” said Sidinkay, a young tribesman who said he was paid $350 to help direct C.I.A. drones to their targets in Pakistan’s tribal belt. Sweat glistened on his forehead; he rocked nervously as he spoke. “Stay away from the Americans,” he said in an imploring voice. “Stay away from their dollars.”
Al Qaeda and the Taliban have few defenses against the American drones that endlessly prowl the skies over the bustling militant hubs of North and South Waziristan in northwestern Pakistan, along the Afghan border. C.I.A. missiles killed at least 246 people in 2012, most of them Islamist militants, according to watchdog groups that monitor the strikes. The dead included Abu Yahya al-Libi, the Qaeda ideologue and deputy leader.
Despite the technological superiority of their enemy, however, the militants do possess one powerful countermeasure. Read More
Madison Park | CNN
A three-month-old infant receives polio vaccination drops from his mother at a camp in Jalozai, Pakistan on July 13.
A ban on polio vaccinations imposed by the Taliban could affect about 280,000 children living in tribal areas of northwest Pakistan, according to estimates from the World Health Organization.
Last month, local Taliban militants prohibited polio vaccines over the United States’ use of drone strikes in the region.
When a three-day nationwide effort to administer polio vaccines began this week,health workers and volunteers weren’t able to immunize children in North and South Waziristan.
Under this security situation, they “obviously cannot operate,” said Mazhar Nisar, the health education adviser in the Pakistani prime minister’s polio program. “We’re hoping that the campaign will resume in the near future.”
Throughout the rest of the country, vaccination efforts continued as 180,000 health workers and volunteers fanned throughout communities trying to immunize 34 million children, under the age of 5.
Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland | CNN
On Sunday a missile launched from a U.S. drone struck a house in Pakistan’s remote tribal agency of North Waziristan, killing eight suspected militants, most of whom were loyal to the Pakistani Taliban commander, Hafiz Gul Bahadur. Bahadur has reportedly overseen multiple attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan.
While the CIA drone war against al Qaeda in Pakistan is well known and is even, on occasion, publicly acknowledged by senior Obama administration officials, the strike against Bahadur’s fighters is part of a lesser-known campaign to target Pakistani militants, who are less able to pose a threat to the U.S. homeland. This represents an expansion of the drone program that was overseen by President Barack Obama’s administration.
In 2004 President George W. Bush authorized for the first time the covert lethal use of drones inside Pakistani territory. During his tenure, there were 45 drone strikes in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), according to data compiled by the New America Foundation.
But when President Obama took office in January 2009, the program ramped up quickly, accelerating from an average of one strike every 40 days to one every four days by mid-2011.
Reza Sayah | CNN
Afghan Health Ministry employees administer polio vaccine drops to a child in Laghman province on June 11, 2012.
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — A Taliban commander in northwest Pakistan has announced a ban on polio vaccines for children as long as the United States continues its campaign of drone strikes in the region, according to a statement by the Taliban.
“Polio drops will be banned in North Waziristan until the drones strikes are stopped,” said the statement, released Saturday.
“Almost every resident of North Waziristan has become a mental patient because of the drone strikes, which are worse than polio,” the statement continued. “On one hand, the U.S. spends millions of dollars to eliminate polio, while on the other hand it kills hundreds with the help of its slave, Pakistan.” Read More