Drone attacks and US reputation —Farhat Taj

 In terms of the drone attacks, the US must not make any distinction between al Qaeda and the Taliban. They both have internalised a global ideology that is anti-civilisation and anti-human

There is news coming up in the media that al Qaeda in Waziristan may run away to Yemen in the face of growing drone attacks. The people of Waziristan have expressed deep concern at this news. They do not want al Qaeda to run away from Waziristan. They want al Qaeda along with the Taliban burnt to ashes on the soil of Waziristan through relentless drone attacks. The drone attacks, they believe, are the one and only ‘cure’ for these anti-civilisation creatures and the US must robustly administer them the ‘cure’ until their existence is annihilated from the world. The people of Waziristan, including tribal leaders, women and religious people, asked me to convey in categorical terms to the US the following in my column.

One, your new drone attack strategy is brilliant, i.e. one attack closely followed by another. After the first attack the terrorists cordon off the area and none but the terrorists are allowed on the spot. Another attack at that point kills so many of them. Excellent! Keep it up!

Your drone technology has the full capacity to encircle and eliminate al Qaeda and the Taliban in Waziristan. If you fail to do so and al Qaeda manages to run away to Yemen or any other place, it could only happen in two cases: either you are highly incompetent people or you have ulterior motives.

The people who have established one of the world’s most vibrant democracies and have taken science and technology to a new zenith cannot be highly incompetent. Now the only possibility is that you have ulterior motives, which could facilitate al Qaeda’s escape from Waziristan.

In a sense the ISI of Pakistan and the CIA of the US share a sinister reputation: both use fanatic Islamists to promote strategic goals. The Taliban are the strategic assets of the ISI and al Qaeda of the CIA. Terrorised people in FATA believe that the ISI would never eliminate the Taliban for the sake of strategic depth in Afghanistan and countless people across the Muslim world believe that al Qaeda is a CIA invention to trigger chaos in Muslim lands and hence create excuses for the US to control natural resources such as oil and gas in those lands. There is also a perception in FATA and the rest of Pakistan that the US is especially going soft on Islamists from the restive Muslim areas of China. Those Islamists would be used to destabilise China, the emerging rival to the US in world politics.

Here in Waziristan the US has a good opportunity to prove to the Muslim world that it is indeed serious in eliminating al Qaeda. The escape of al Qaeda from Waziristan to Yemen or any other Muslim country would communicate the message that the US is an imperial power that just ‘relocates’ its strategic assets from one Muslim society to another only to destabilise them and hence paves the way for US military intervention in those areas.

In terms of the drone attacks, the US must not make any distinction between al Qaeda and the Taliban. They both have internalised a global ideology that is anti-civilisation and anti-human. They will keep coming back to strike at civilisations — Islamic, Western, Confucian or Indian. The sooner the world gets rid of them the better.

This was the view of the people of Waziristan. I would now draw the attention of the US to the Peshawar Declaration, a joint statement of political parties, civil society organisations, businessmen, doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, labourers and intellectuals, following a conference on December 12-13, 2009, in Peshawar. The declaration notes that if the people of the war-affected areas are satisfied with any counter-militancy strategy; it is drone attacks that they support the most. Some people in Waziristan compare drones with the Quran’s Ababeels — the holy sparrows sent by God to avenge Abraham, the intended conqueror of the Khana Kaaba. Which other Muslim society has likened anything from the US military with a Quranic symbol? Only the Pakhtuns did that so publicly in this time of rising anti-Americanism across the Muslim world! What more does the US want from a Muslim society? Now please go ahead and do the needful as indicated by the people of Waziristan.

The overpowered people of Waziristan are angry. They believe no one in their entire history has inflicted so much insult on them as al Qaeda. In our native land, they say, al Qaeda has killed so many of us. Anyone in the world who has gone mad in the name of religion has come to occupy our land. They are Arabs, Central Asians, Caucasians and Africans. They are people with black, brown, blue and green eyes. They are brown, black and white. They all have chosen our land for their sinister designs against all civilisations. No self-respecting people, they argue, can accept this situation.

The ball is now in the US’s court. Their action or inaction against the terrorists in Waziristan would either confirm their image in the Muslim world as an imperial power destabilising Muslim societies in the name of the war on terror or would challenge that image, at least in FATA and the NWFP, the Muslim society on the frontline of the war on terror. The people of Waziristan hope the US challenges that image through the elimination of all terrorists — al Qaeda or the Taliban — in Waziristan.

Source: Daily Times, 06 Feb 2010

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