The American Bear


Khyber Agency: Six killed in US drone strike in Loe Shalman

December 14th, 2014

At least six people were killed in a drone strike in Mach Magai area of Loe Shalman near Khyber Agency on Saturday.

According to political administration, two missiles were fired while a boat in River Kabul was targeted in the strike.

Six people were killed while two others injured in the drone attack, the administration added.

The injured identified as Hamid and Shabir were taken to Landikotal Hospital.

This is the first US drone strike in Loe Shalman area.

The last drone strike was carried out in Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that killed six people.

Life After a Drone Strike | Interview with Director Madiha Tahir

The US isn’t the first Western nation to bomb Waziristan. As you note, the British did it in the 1920s. Do these campaigns have anything in common?

Yes, there are some things in common. Let me point out a difference first: the historian Priya Satia has observed that for the British creating terror through “air policing” — what it was called then — was considered humane because it would terrorize people into submission and therefore minimize the number of people they’d actually have to kill, or so they reasoned. For the US, that discourse has been replaced by claims about precision, accuracy and surgical strikes.

But, of course, the buzzing of the drones does create terror, particularly among those who have already been attacked or seen an attack. That’s the simplest link. More interestingly, there’s a kind of technophilia that’s part of the British and American effort. It has been part of the fantasy of empire ever since flight became a possibility. It’s the belief that flight — whether by airplanes or drones — can make total control of a territory possible. It’s the idea that flight equals omniscience, that territory is transparent, and that all one needs to do in order to understand it, is to see it by air. The British made that mistake, and the Americans are making it now. They have their heads in the clouds. They have failed to grasp the link between the violence they inflict and the response that they get. The British wrote off rebellions as part of the alleged innate savagery of Pashtuns rather than a reaction to their brutal colonial rule. The US now presumes the right to be the global policeman, to occupy and destroy entire countries, but then wonders “why do they hate us?” This is a question that reflects the utter, willful blindness of American power.

This is not to say that those fighting against the Americans in Afghanistan are simply anti-colonial warriors, because the insurgents have been ruthless to Waziris and Pakistanis more generally. But, at the level of imperial politics, there is a definite link between what the British did and what the US is attempting to do now.

A major theme in your documentary is that survivors of drone strikes are continually haunted by the dead — and continually reminded of their deaths by the omnipresence of drones in Waziristan’s skies. One young boy recounts that while he barely survived a drone attack that killed both his sister-in-law and baby niece, he doesn’t feel lucky to be alive. Indeed, ‘Death would have been better than this kind of life,’ he tells you. Why would he say that?

When I asked him why he said that, Saddam responded that he was tired of the drone attacks and that he felt ill every time he heard a drone had bombed somewhere. I think this is part of what’s critical to understand about drone attacks: they don’t just kill people. They destroy lives. We, those of us who don’t have to suffer through these bombings, have been so disciplined to think in terms of the numbers dead and whether they were “civilians” or “militants” that I think we miss the broader, deeper and long-lasting effects of drone policy. We miss the fact that deaths resound and echo through the social fabric for long after. We miss the fact the bombing destroys communities. The focus on numbers alone has been successful in narrowing the terms of the debate around drones. I wanted to broaden the discussion.
Madiha Tahir

CIA's most senior officer in Pakistan 'unmasked' by Imran Khan's party

The political party led by the former cricket star Imran Khan claims to have blown the cover of the CIA’s most senior officer in Pakistan as part of an increasingly high-stakes campaign against US drone strikes.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party named a man it claimed was head of the CIA station in Islamabad in a letter to police demanding he be nominated as one of the people responsible for a drone strike on 21 November, which killed five militants including senior commanders of the Haqqani Network.

John Brennan, the CIA director, was also nominated as an “accused person” for murder and “waging war against Pakistan”.

The US embassy said it could not comment but was looking into the matter. The CIA spokesman Dean Boyd would not confirm the station chief’s name and declined to immediately comment, AP reported.

If his identity is confirmed it will be the second time anti-drone campaigners have unmasked a top US spy in Pakistan.

In 2010 another CIA station chief, Jonathan Banks, was named in criminal proceedings initiated after a drone strike. Banks was forced to leave the country.

As with the Banks case, questions will be raised about how the PTI came to know the identity of the top US intelligence official in the country.

Although nearly all foreign spies in Pakistan use diplomatic cover stories to hide their occupation, many, including station chiefs, are declared to the country’s domestic spy agency.

The letter signed by the PTI spokeswoman Shireen Mazari demanded the named agent be prevented from leaving the country so that he could be arrested. The PTI said it hoped he would reveal “through interrogation” the names of the remote pilots who operated the drone.

"CIA station chief is not a diplomatic post, therefore he does not enjoy any diplomatic immunity and is within the bounds of domestic laws of Pakistan," the letter said.

Where Is the Moral Rectitude When Political Retaliation Drone Strike Hits Settled Area, Misses Target? | Jim White

Early this morning, just hours after the US had assured Pakistan that drone strikes would be curtailed if Pakistan is able to restart peace talks with the Taliban (after the US disrupted them with a drone strike), John Brennan lashed out with one of his signature rage drone strikes that seems more calculated as political retaliation than careful targeting. Earlier documentation of political retaliation strikes can be seen here and here.

Here is how Dawn described the assurance from the US late on Wednesday:

The United States has promised that it will not carry out any drone strikes in Pakistan during any peace talks with Taliban militants in the future, the Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said Wednesday.

Briefing a session of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, Aziz said a team of government negotiators was prepared to hold talks with former Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud on Nov 2, the day after he was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had told reporters last week that the process of peace talks could not be taken forward unless drone attacks on Pakistani soil are halted.

Nisar had said that the drone attack that killed Mehsud ‘sabotaged’ the government’s efforts to strike peace with anti-state militants.

Bill Roggio, writing in Long War Journal, is convinced that the Haqqani network’s leader was the target of today’s strike:

The US launched a drone strike at a seminary in Pakistan’s settled district of Hangu, killing eight people in what appears to have been an attempt to kill Sirajuddin Haqqani, the operations commander of the Taliban and al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network.

But see that bit about the strike being in “Pakistan’s settled district”? One of the many unwritten “rules” of US drone strikes in Pakistan is that they are restricted to the FATA, or Federally Administered Tribal Area, of Pakistan where Pakistani security or military personnel have little to no freedom of movement. In fact, the ability of drones to enter these otherwise forbidden territories is touted as one of their main justifications for use.

Just over a week ago, the chief fundraiser for the Haqqani network was killed near Islamabad. That killing involved a gunman, though, not a drone. If Nasiruddin Haqqani could be taken out by a gunman near Islamabad, why couldn’t Sirajuddin also have been taken out by a gunman in Hangu rather than missed in a drone strike?

Various reports on this drone strike place the death toll at anywhere from three to eight and say that either three or four missiles were fired into the seminary. [continue]

US Drone Strike Targeting Seminary in Settled Area of Pakistan Kills Six | The Dissenter

November 21st, 2013

At least six people were killed and several injured in the Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan early in the morning on November 21 when a CIA drone attacked a seminary.

The drone strike appeared to have targeted militants from the Haqqani network, a group the United States governmentbelieves has close ties to al Qaeda and the ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency. However, the strike took place in a settled area of Pakistan when any agreement between the Pakistani government and the US government has only applied to drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), an ungoverned area of the country.

This recent drone attack will likely open settled urban areas of the country up to CIA drone strikes.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that its sources:

…said a drone hit a room in the Madrassa where five senior Haqqani commanders were meeting. Several reports said Maulvi Ahmad Jan was killed. He was reportedly a special adviser to Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, and the group’s spiritual leader and fund raiser. Sirajuddin was reportedly seen at the madrassa a few days before the strike however he was not reportedly killed. Ahmad Jan, in his 60s and a member of the group’s ruling council, was reportedly at the madrassa ‘receiving people who were coming to condole the death of Nasiruddin Haqqani’. Nasiruddin was a leading figure in the Haqqani Network. He was shot dead on the streets of Islamabad on November 11 2013.

The Bureau source named four others killed in the strike: Maulvi Hamidullah, an Afghan ‘special advisor’ to the Haqqani group; Maulvi Abdullah, an Afghan; Maulvi Abdur Rehman Mengal (aka Abdul Rehman); and Karim Khan. NBC News also identified five alleged Taliban commanders, with one difference to the Bureau source. NBC News said Maulvi Ghazi Marjan (aka Gul Marjan) was killed but did not name a Karim Khan among the dead. And Dawn named Kaleemullah among the dead, as well as Ahmed Jan, Hamidullah, Abdullah, Abdur Rehman, and Gul Marjan.

A report in The Guardian additionally reported, “Residents and police claimed three or four missiles were fired at a section of the mud-built madrassa just before 5am. The seminary’s students, many of whom were sleeping in a nearby room, escaped unhurt.”

Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who has represented drone victims, suggested this strike was the first drone attack in a settled area of Pakistan.

Based on TBIJ’s prior research, the organization explained:

…[T]hree drone strikes have previously hit outside the main body of FATA, in Frontier Region Bannu. The frontier regions are a ‘buffer’ area between the fully tribal regions and the ‘settled’ regions – the phrase used to describe the sections of Pakistan that are under provincial control. The most recent of these attacks took place in Jani Khel in March 2009, two months into Barack Obama’s presidency. Previous strikes took place in the same area in November 2008 and, according to less comprehensive reports, December 2007…

The strike occurred weeks after another drone strike on November 1, which killed Pakistan Taliban chief, Hakimullah Mehsud. That drone strike was heavily criticized within Pakistan not because Mehsud was a hero to those in Pakistan but because the country was in the process of peace talks with Pakistan and the strike ruined all that had been accomplished.

This strike that reportedly killed Haqqani militant leaders is likely to have a negative effect as well, breeding more violence as Pakistan struggles to maintain stability in the country.

The people of Pakistan are outraged at Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that he cannot stop the US from launching drone strikes in their country. They understandably believe he is complicit and, if he was a better leader, he would be able to stop the drones.

The Haqqani network was not designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department until 2012. It may sympathize and have a history of cooperation with al Qaeda forces, but whether it is an “associated force” of al Qaeda is debatable.

The CIA’s Revenge Drone Strike in Pakistan | Gareth Porter

After a drone strike had reportedly killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud Nov. 1, the spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council declared that, if true, it would be “a serious loss” for the terrorist organisation.

That reaction accurately reflected the Central Intelligence Agency’s argument for the strike. But the back story of the episode is how President Barack Obama supported the parochial interests of the CIA in the drone war over the Pakistani government’s effort to try a new political approach to that country’s terrorism crisis.

The failure of both drone strikes and Pakistani military operations in the FATA tribal areas to stem the tide of terrorism had led to a decision by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to try a political dialogue with the Taliban.

But the drone strike that killed Mehsud stopped the peace talks before they could begin.

Malala and Nabila: worlds apart | Murtaza Hussain

On October 24, 2012 a Predator drone flying over North Waziristan came upon eight-year old Nabila Rehman, her siblings, and their grandmother as they worked in a field beside their village home. Her grandmother, Momina Bibi, was teaching the children how to pick okra as the family prepared for the coming Eid holiday. However on this day the terrible event would occur that would forever alter the course of this family’s life. In the sky the children suddenly heard the distinctive buzzing sound emitted by the CIA-operated drones - a familiar sound to those in the rural Pakistani villages which are stalked by them 24 hours a day - followed by two loud clicks. The unmanned aircraft released its deadly payload onto the Rehman family, and in an instant the lives of these children were transformed into a nightmare of pain, confusion and terror. Seven children were wounded, and Nabila’s grandmother was killed before her eyes, an act for which no apology, explanation or justification has ever been given.

This past week Nabila, her schoolteacher father, and her 12-year-old brother travelled to Washington DC to tell their story and to seek answers about the events of that day. However, despite overcoming incredible obstacles in order to travel from their remote village to the United States, Nabila and her family were roundly ignored. At the Congressional hearing where they gave testimony, only five out of 430 representatives showed up. In the words of Nabila’s father to those few who did attend: ”My daughter does not have the face of a terrorist and neither did my mother. It just doesn’t make sense to me, why this happened… as a teacher, I wanted to educate Americans and let them know my children have been injured.”

The translator broke down in tears while recounting their story, but the government made it a point to snub this family and ignore the tragedy it had caused to them. Nabila, a slight girl of nine with striking hazel eyes, asked a simple question in her testimony: “What did my grandmother do wrong?” There was no one to answer this question, and few who cared to even listen. Symbolic of the utter contempt in which the government holds the people it claims to be liberating, while the Rehmans recounted their plight, Barack Obama was spending the same time meeting with the CEO of weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

It is useful to contrast the American response to Nabila Rehman with that of Malala Yousafzai, a young girl who was nearly assassinated by the Pakistani Taliban. While Malala was feted by Western media figures, politicians and civic leaders for her heroism, Nabila has become simply another one of the millions of nameless, faceless people who have had their lives destroyed over the past decade of American wars. The reason for this glaring discrepancy is obvious. Since Malala was a victim of the Taliban, she, despite her protestations, was seen as a potential tool of political propaganda to be utilized by war advocates. She could be used as the human face of their effort, a symbol of the purported decency of their cause, the type of little girl on behalf of whom the United States and its allies can say they have been unleashing such incredible bloodshed. Tellingly, many of those who took up her name and image as a symbol of the justness of American military action in the Muslim world did not even care enough to listen to her own words or feelings about the subject.

As described by the Washington Post’s Max Fisher:

Western fawning over Malala has become less about her efforts to improve conditions for girls in Pakistan, or certainly about the struggles of millions of girls in Pakistan, and more about our own desire to make ourselves feel warm and fuzzy with a celebrity and an easy message. It’s a way of letting ourselves off the hook, convincing ourselves that it’s simple matter of good guys vs bad guys, that we’re on the right side and that everything is okay.

But where does Nabila fit into this picture? If extrajudicial killings, drone strikes and torture are in fact all part of a just-cause associated with the liberation of the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere, where is the sympathy or even simple recognition for the devastation this war has caused to countless little girls such as her? The answer is clear: The only people to be recognized for their suffering in this conflict are those who fall victim to the enemy. Malala for her struggles was to be made the face of the American war effort -  against her own will if necessary - while innumerable little girls such as Nabila will continue to be terrorized and murdered as part of this war without end. There will be no celebrity appearances or awards ceremonies for Nabila. At her testimony almost no one even bothered to attend.

But if they had attended, they would’ve heard a nine year old girl asking the questions which millions of other innocent people who have had their lives thrown into chaos over the past decade have been asking: “When I hear that they are going after people who have done wrong to America, then what have I done wrong to them? What did my grandmother do wrong to them? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Pakistan Taliban chief killed (again) in US drone strike

November 1st, 2013

A US drone strike in Pakistan has killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, Pakistani sources have told Al Jazeera.

“We can confirm Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in the drone strike,” said the source on Friday.

Four security officials confirmed his death to Reuters news agency. His bodyguard and driver were also among the dead, they said.

“Among the dead, who are in large numbers, are Hakimullah’s personal bodyguard Tariq Mehsud and his driver Abdullah Mehsud, two of his closest people,” said one intelligence source, adding at least 25 people were killed in the strike.

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamad, said that Pakistan’s Taliban has also confirmed Mehsud’s killing.

As leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Mehsud was the most wanted man in Pakistan and the US had a $5m bounty on his head.

Mehsud, who had been reported dead several times before, became the leader of the Pakistani Taliban in August 2009 after a drone strike killed the previous leader, his mentor.

Civilian Deaths in Drone Strikes Cited in Report

In the telling of some American officials, the C.I.A. drone campaign in Pakistan has been a triumph with few downsides: In more than 300 missile attacks there since 2008, dozens of Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, and the pace of the strikes, which officials frequently describe as “surgical” and “contained,” has dropped sharply over the past year.

But viewed from Miram Shah, the frontier Pakistani town that has become a virtual test laboratory for drone warfare, the campaign has not been the antiseptic salve portrayed in Washington. In interviews over the past year, residents paint a portrait of extended terror and strain within a tribal society caught between vicious militants and the American drones hunting them.

“The drones are like the angels of death,” said Nazeer Gul, a shopkeeper in Miram Shah. “Only they know when and where they will strike.”

Their claims of distress are now being backed by a new Amnesty International investigation that found, among other points, that at least 19 civilians in the surrounding area of North Waziristan had been killed in just two of the drone attacks since January 2012 — a time when the Obama administration has held that strikes have been increasingly accurate and free of mistakes.

The study is to be officially released on Tuesday along with a separate Human Rights Watch report on American drone strikes in Yemen, as the issue is again surfacing on other fronts. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a vocal critic of the drone campaign, is to meet with President Obama in the White House. And on Friday, the drone debate is scheduled to spill onto the floor of the United Nations, whose officials have recently published reports that attacked America’s lack of transparency over drones.

But nowhere has the issue played out more directly than in Miram Shah, in northwestern Pakistan. It has become a fearful and paranoid town, dealt at least 13 drone strikes since 2008, with an additional 25 in adjoining districts — more than any other urban settlement in the world.

Even when the missiles do not strike, buzzing drones hover day and night, scanning the alleys and markets with roving high-resolution cameras.

… Every week the streets empty for a day as army supply trucks rumble through. The curfew is strictly enforced: several children and mentally ill residents who have strayed outside have been shot dead, several residents said.

In the aftermath of drone strikes, things get worse. Many civilians hide at home, fearing masked vigilantes with the Ittehad-e-Mujahedeen Khorasan, a militant enforcement unit that hunts for American spies. The unit casts a wide net, and the suspects it hauls in are usually tortured and summarily executed.

Journalists face particular risks. In February, gunmen killed Malik Mumtaz Khan, the president of the local press club. Some blame Pakistani spies, while others say the Taliban are responsible.

Meanwhile state services have virtually collapsed. …

… [The] new Amnesty International report, which examines the 45 known strikes in North Waziristan between January 2012 and August 2013, asserts that in several cases drones killed civilians indiscriminately.

Last October, it says, American missiles killed a 68-year-old woman named Mamana Bibi as she picked vegetables in a field close to her grandchildren. In July 2012, 18 laborers, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed near the Afghan border.

Ms. Bibi’s son, Rafiq ur-Rehman, and two of her injured grandchildren are due to travel to the United States next week to speak about their experiences.

“The killing of Mamana Bibi appears to be a clear case of extrajudicial execution,” said Mustafa Qadri, the report’s author, in an interview. “It is extremely difficult to see how she could have been mistaken for a militant, let alone an imminent threat to the U.S.”

From Dissident Gold to Imperial Dross: The Neutering of the NSA Archives


Take heart, you fans of slam-bang super-spy adventure stories! Tom Clancy is not dead; he lives on in the pages of the Washington Post, channeled through the airport-thriller prose of Barton Gellman — one of the small coterie of media custodians doling out dollops from the huge archive of secret NSA documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Drawing on that archive of what should be shocking, empire-undermining revelations, Gellman and his co-authors last week penned a story that is, in almost every respect, a glorification of state-ordered murder: a rousing tale of secret ops in exotic lands, awesome high-tech spy gear, flying missiles, deadly explosions, and dogged agents doing the grim but noble work of keeping us safe. No doubt Hollywood is already on the horn: it’s boffo box office!

The story describes how the NSA’s determined leg-work helped Barack Obama shred the sovereignty of a US ally in order to kill a man — in the usual cowardly fashion, by long-distance, remote-control missile — without the slightest pretense of judicial process. It’s really cool! Just watch our boys in action:

In the search for targets, the NSA has draped a surveillance blanket over dozens of square miles of northwest Pakistan. In Ghul’s case, the agency deployed an arsenal of cyber-espionage tools, secretly seizing control of laptops, siphoning audio files and other messages, and tracking radio transmissions to determine where Ghul might “bed down.” …

“NSA threw the kitchen sink at the FATA,” said a former U.S. intelligence official with experience in Afghanistan and Pakistan, referring to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the region in northwest Pakistan where al-Qaeda’s leadership is based. … Surveillance operations that required placing a device or sensor near an al-Qaeda compound were handled by the CIA’s Information Operations Center, which specializes in high-tech devices and “close-in” surveillance work. “But if you wanted huge coverage of the FATA, NSA had 10 times the manpower, 20 times the budget and 100 times the brainpower,” the former intelligence official said.

I mean, get a load of these guys: 100 times the brainpower of ordinary mortals! Didn’t I say they were super-spies?

The target was Hassan Ghul, an al-Qaeda operative who was once in American custody but was released after giving his captors the tip that eventually led them to Osama bin Laden. (He was also tortured after giving the information — because, hey, why not? Even super-powerful brains need to let off steam once in a while, right?) Returned to his native Pakistan, Ghul evidently became a bad Injun again in eyes of the imperium, so, after snooping on his wife, they found out where he was and ordered some joystick jockey with his butt parked in a comfy chair somewhere to push a button and kill him.

There is not a single word in the entire story to suggest, even remotely, that there is anything wrong with the government of the United States running high-tech death squads and blanketing the globe with a level of invasive surveillance far beyond the dreams of Stalin or the Stasi. There is not even a single comment from some token ‘serious’ person objecting to the policy on realpolitik grounds: i.e., that such actions create more terrorists (as the Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai told Obama to his face), engender hatred for the US, destabilize volatile regions, etc. etc. There is not a shred of even this very tepid, ‘loyal opposition’ type of tidbit that usually crops up in the 15th or 25th paragraph of such stories. But there was, of course, plenty of room for quotes like this:

“Ours is a noble cause,” NSA Director Keith B. Alexander said during a public event last month. “Our job is to defend this nation and to protect our civil liberties and privacy.”

Makes you want to puddle up with patriotic pride, don’t it? These noble, noble guardians of ours: peeping through our digital windows, rifling through our in-boxes, listening to our personal conversations, reading our private thoughts, tracking our purchases (underwear, fishing gear, sex toys, books, movies, tampons, anything, everything), recording our dreams, our interests, our beliefs, our desires, skulking in the shadows, pushing buttons to kill people … yes, noble is certainly the first word that comes to mind.

Three killed in North Waziristan drone attack

September 30th, 2013

PESHAWAR: US drones fired missiles at a residential compound in North Waziristan tribal region near Afghan border on Monday, killing at least three people and injuring another one.

Sources said that four unmanned aircraft were still hovering over the area. They said that the attack took place in Char Khel area of Boya in North Waziristan Agency (NWA).

Identities of the deceased were not known. It was the second consecutive drone attack in as many days.