Category Archives: F.A.T.A

Between Threats and War – Living in a World Addicted to UAVs

The New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow have conducted the first comprehensive public opinion SURVEY covering sensitive political issues in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. According to these polls people in tribal areas strongly oppose the US military pursuing al-Queda and Taliban fighters based in their region; American drone attacks deeply unpopular. The report concludes that nearly nine out every ten people in FATA oppose the U.S. military pursuing al-Qaeda and the Taliban in their region. Nearly 70 percent of FATA residents instead want the Pakistani military alone to fight Taliban and al- Qaeda militants in the tribal areas. This strongly suggests the high intensity opposition to the U.S military operations. For civilian officials, the military’s ability to find and destroy things from a safe distance never ceases to amaze. The CIA’s ongoing drone strike campaign is a particularly redoubtable example, with drone operators in the United States taking out targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

UAV – A New Way to Wage War

UAV – Unmanned Arial Vehicle, will only exist if they offer advantage compared with manned aircraft. Contrary to advantages, disadvantages are obvious to some of us as we see and hear every day. An old military adage (which also applies to civilian use) links the use of UAVs to roles which are dull, dirty or dangerous (DDD). To DDD add covert, diplomatic, research and environmentally critical roles.
Recently (as per 27 Oct 2010) Raytheon – major American defence contractor and industrial corporation with core manufacturing concentrations in defence systems and defence and commercial electronics, who has tested a new UAV weapon Small Tactical Munitions (STM) (0.6m-long (2ft), 13lb (5.9kg) bomb) at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The dual-mode, semi-active laser seeker and GPS inertial navigation system enable it to engage fixed and moving targets in all weather conditions.

With US army moving its concentration from Iraq to Afghanistan and continuous use of UAVs in Pakistan tribal areas by USA the demand for small unmanned air vehicles is moving into higher gear as well. US Army plans to buy 3,000 Raven small UAVs with already 2,000 in hand.

From the CIA’s silent war in Pakistan – two UAVs extensively used, the Predator and the Reaper, both made by General Atomics, a San Diego defence contractor. The Predator is the older of the two; the first one was delivered to the Air Force in 1994. By the end of the 1990s, the CIA was using it to track bin Laden. Capable of flying for up to 40 hours without refuelling, the drone was a “brilliant intelligence tool,” recalls Hank Crumpton, then the CIA’s top covert-operations man in Afghanistan. Although the CIA was keen to weaponize the drone early on, the Air Force resisted the idea until 2000. Even then, firing the weapons was another matter. The Predator’s firepower is limited, but the Reaper can deliver laser-guided 500-lb. bombs like those commonly found on the F-16 jet, together with Hellfire missiles. Marc Herold, in looking at casualties in Afghanistan, quotes an ‘effective casualty radius’ for the Mk82 of 200 feet: this is radius inside which 50% of those exposed will die. Quite often the target is taking cover or lying down and the effect is reduced, but if you can catch people standing up or running then the full effective casualty radius will apply.

But why use UAV; Times (CNN) published a report in June 2009, The CIA’s Silent War in Pakistan saying:

“If we were sending F-16s into FATA–American pilots in Pakistani airspace–they might have felt very differently,” says James Currie, a military historian at the U.S.’s National Defence University.

“The basic problem with all aerial reconnaissance is that it’s subject to error,” says George Friedman, who heads the security firm Stratfor. “But in a place like Pakistan, errors have enormous political consequences.”

Critics of the drones ask if it makes sense for the U.S. to use them when every strike inflames Pakistani public opinion against a pro-U.S. government that is at the point of collapse. And yet Pakistani leaders like army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani seem to have concluded that using drones to kill terrorists in FATA is generally a good thing. This is a major change in direction; although former President Pervez Musharraf allowed drones to operate, he placed severe limits on where and when they could strike. After Musharraf resigned last summer, the shackles came off. The U.S. struck a tacit bargain with the new administration in Islamabad: Zardari and Kayani would quietly enable more drone operations while publicly criticizing the U.S. after each strike. The arrangement has worked well for the U.S.

PlayStation Mentality

We are now more facinated with War Games then before, even COD now includes Karachi and Kabul in their Missions

Warning that the technology is making target killings much easier and more frequent, a report issued by New York Times raised concerns that drone operators based more than thousand miles away from the battlefield, risk developing a PlayStation mentality towards killing. Target killing outside the war zone, never likely to be legal but US administration argues their legality after September 11-2001. Inaccurate and unprofessional attitude by military drone operators from remote locations, do indeed led to civilian killings. CIA so far has carried out more than 80 drone attacks in 2010 alone, according to The Long War Journal, which tracks these strikes. Surprisingly of vast majority of the attacks involved firing multiple missiles or bombs.

Pakistan’s Latest Military Gadgets

Pakistani officials were fortunate to be greeted with a fresh offer of military hardware – possibly totalling as much as $2 billion over the next five years. This latest gear includes (likely to include) night vision goggles, and helicopter spare parts. This is not new for Pakistanis, since 9/11 Pakistan’s gotten lots of big-ticket items from the U.S. military. According to the Congressional Research Service’s tally, that includes eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft; six C-130 cargo planes; over 5000 TOW anti-armor missiles; 100 Harpoon anti-ship missiles; and even an Oliver Hazard Perry-class missile frigate. And by next year, Pakistan will receive 18 new F-16 combat jets from the U.S. — fighters capable of carrying a nuclear payload. Considering the latest gear what options does Pakistan have? According the Spencer Ackerman of Wired MAGAZINE

“Unless al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban have developed an armor corps and a submarine-heavy Navy while no one was looking, these weapons have more utility against the Indians than the terrorists.”

This gear is either a treat from US for Pakistan to use against terrorists or U.S. military seeks to prevent a deepening erosion of a relationship that US can’t live with. This especially true after recent wikileaks suggesting a strong ties between Pakistan and Insurgents. WikiLeaks has freaked out the White House, though, by clearly raising questions about whether Pakistani aid to the Afghan insurgency is far deeper than typically acknowledged. How much truth is in it, I think it will be too early to say anything. However, it’s not a surprising news that the Pakistani ISI has ties to the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami. How much of this money or gear will go to Afgan pockets no one knows, it is only a time who will show a true motivation behind these large spendings on US non-NATO ally. But Is there a silver lining to Pakistan’s relationship with the insurgents? Not known, at least to me. Are things still Koran, Kalashnikov and laptop or do I have to add heat seeker missiles to it as well? I am not so sure.

A Silent War in Waziristan

The wilds of Waziristan, an unlikely showcase for the future of warfare

The Council on Foreign Relations has just released a new report on U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the report is based on the study conducted by former national security advisor and former Deputy Secretary of State. As far as Pakistan is concerned, the report broadly endorses U.S. policy of trying to build a long-term partnership, while also aiming to persuade it to turn convincingly against all militant groups. It reiterates a U.S. complaint that while Pakistan is ready to act against militants that threaten the Pakistani state. Reuters cited, that the report’s endorsement of U.S. support for Pakistan comes with a hard edge, warning that failure to achieve results, or an attack on the United States traced back to Pakistan-based militants, could lead to a much more aggressive U.S. policy:

“There are several strategic options available to the United States if the administration concludes that the current strategy is not working. In Pakistan, Washington could turn away from its present emphasis on rewarding and encouraging long-term bilateral cooperation. Instead, it could undertake increasingly aggressive, unilateral U.S. military strikes against Pakistan-based terrorists deeper into Pakistani territory, coercive diplomacy and sanctions, or a range of financial, diplomatic, and legal restrictions to control the flow of people, money, goods, and information to and from Pakistan. This strategy of containment and coercion could be coupled with a distinct diplomatic ’tilt’ toward India, with New Delhi serving as Washington’s main strategic and counterterror partner in the region.”

Almost week after the report was published US showed its interest to expand the operations for drone within Pakistan up to Quetta, which Pakistan has rejected, with an agreement to practise more modest measures. US intend to expand the boundaries where CIA drones can fly. The unmanned aircraft may patrol designated flight boxes over the country’s tribal belt but not other provinces such as Baluchistan. In reference to the arguments put forward by both countries, it is evident that the disagreement over the scope of drone programme underscores broader tensions between the US and Pakistan, who are increasingly pointing fingers at one another over the rising level of insurgent violence on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Pakistan officials stressed that Quetta is densely populated city where strike is more likely to result in civilian causalities, however US officials have long suspected that there are other reasons for Pakistan’s aversion including the surveillance of Pakistan nuclear facilities based in Baluchistan.

The subject is quite intrinsic and needs a historical background to understand and reach the root cause. But to take the current situation only in account, in my opinion this is a reaction to the US Obama-Led administrations cohesive gesture and voices of triumphs for India, has shunned the Pakistan’s political and military regimes expectations as Pakistani’s are engaged in a large scale war on terror in alliance with the United States.

On the very other side, it may be taken into account the tribesmen residing on the western borders of Pakistan, have been so badly hit by their own army in alliance with the foreign intervention that the Pakistani military and government is now thinking of changing their footprints towards a dialogue to settle the area down, which indeed is a good option not good for the United States to continue with its military voyage to hunt down the terrorists.

Now when NATO summit concludes that the foreign forces shall handover the military command of Afghanistan to the National Afghan Army, they plan to flee this place till 2014. I also wonder role played by the Pakistani intelligence by supporting the pro-Pakistani Taliban likewise the silent war fought against the USSR 3 decades back.

This may be taken into consideration that the public opinion against the American intrusion has crossed the limits, and the Pakistani- Government now fear that this may not burst up and may not be end of its times.

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