Attrition: The Truth Will Give You A Headache

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March 24, 2011:  Pakistan has now openly admitted that the United States has been conducting years of UAV operations over the Pakistani tribal territories, using missiles to kill Islamic radicals. Pakistan has been helping with intelligence, providing information on who the terrorists are, and where they can be found. Pakistani records show 164 UAV attacks in the last four years, with 964 Taliban and other Islamic radicals killed. Pakistani intelligence is confident that these numbers are accurate, including that fact 17.7 percent of the terrorists killed were foreigners. Most of these were Arabs, hiding out in Pakistan, but also included local Islamic radicals from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and the other four "stans." There were also some more distant terrorists, from places like the Philippines and Chechnya.

There were very few civilians killed by these UAV strikes, largely because the American ROE (Rules of Engagement) that forbid missiles being fired if civilians are around. The Pakistanis went along with this, and their intelligence efforts sought to discover when the terrorists would be either travelling, or in a building without civilians with them. Many of the hundred or so civilians killed were wives and children of terrorists, or civilians (human shields) forced to stay near the terrorists. This often works. But if the terrorist is senior enough, the missile is fired anyway. There have definitely been very few civilians killed by these attacks, because the Islamic radicals are diligent about calling in the media if there are any dead civilians. There have been very few of these photo ops, mainly because there have been so few opportunities.

Many Pakistanis continue to demand that these UAV attacks be halted, even though those missiles are killing terrorists who are planning to launch more attacks on Pakistani targets.

 


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