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December 21, 2009
Drone attacks deaden diplomatic track in Pakistan

A woman in Garhi Habibullah, Pakistan. Photo: Flickr user UNphoto

Ambassador S. Azmat Hassan is a former Ambassador of Pakistan to Malaysia, Syria and Morocco and Deputy Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations. He is currently an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University and is a contributing Worldfocus blogger.

U.S. and Pakistani interests in Afghanistan converge but only up to a point. From 2002 to 2008, the U.S. poured in over $10 billion to the Musharraf government for its support in the “war on terror” in Afghanistan.

The money was largely utilized to replenish the Pakistani military’s capabilities. Not much was devoted to human development in the most needy and impoverished tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Today, the United States and Pakistan are no doubt allies battling violent extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas. It was inevitable that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, after being routed by the United States in 2001, would cross the porous border to seek sanctuary among fellow Pashtuns in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt.

The media tends to conflate the Pakistani Taliban, who are battling the Pakistani government, and the Afghan Taliban, whose main motive is to drive away foreign forces from Afghanistan.

The Pakistani army, in its counterinsurgency campaign, has achieved some success against the Pakistani Taliban in Swat and South Waziristan. This group had directly challenged the writ of the state.

But despite the U.S. prodding Pakistan to go after the Afghan Taliban — whose leadership is reportedly hiding in Pakistan’s border areas — the Pakistani government is reluctant to do so.

The reason is simple: the Afghan Taliban do not launch attacks against the Pakistani people. Secondly, the Pakistanis do not want to antagonize a group which could play a dominant role in a future Afghan government.

It would be much wiser if the U.S. and Pakistan undertook a more realistic appraisal of the limits of their alliance. For the Pakistanis, the U.S. has often been an unreliable ally, which has abandoned them in the past. Bitter memories of these episodes remain.

President Obama has announced that the U.S. will start withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan in July 2011. Nobody can predict how long the U.S. will remain in Afghanistan after that date.

Meanwhile, the Taliban will remain a major force in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s influence there will grow if the Afghan Taliban become a partner in a new government in Kabul, which could be on the horizon sooner rather than later.

The U.S. should not feel offended if the Pakistanis cannot meet its demands regarding the Afghan Taliban. On the contrary, since a military defeat of the Afghan insurgency is practically impossible to attain, the U.S. should open serious negotiations with Mullah Omar, leader of the Afghan Taliban.

Omar has publicly stated that his fight is against the Karzai government. He is not against the United States.

If Omar is promised a share in power, a new coalition government can come into being in Afghanistan. This scenario will further marginalize the dwindling fortunes of al-Qaeda.

Nobody knows the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, or whether he is dead or alive. He has not been sighted for the past 8 years. His allure as an Islamic leader has been considerably dented. It is unwise to give him an importance or stature that he does not have any longer.

The U.S. should use its considerable soft power in Afghanistan and Pakistan. By helping to build schools, roads and hospitals in the region, the U.S. will achieve much more success in winning hearts and minds.

Hard power has been tried for the past 8 years. It was not successful. The drone attacks targeting Taliban militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan have killed some al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.

Regrettably, they have also killed many more innocent people. Much ill will against the US was created in both countries by this “collateral damage.”

Ultimately, drone attacks are not likely to make an appreciable difference to the insurgencies raging in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A negotiated political approach has a better chance of success.

– S. Azmat Hassan




Read history in Afghanistan and you find that the country outside of the cities have not change in a thousand years. A person living in a home that is likely been there since the Roman Empire started. Water wells dug centuries ago. The land having the same crops grown on it the same way for generations on end. Roads or dirt paths going from one village to another village. Putting up schools (Mosques)in countries that still treat their goats better then their wives.The USA will very soon leave that country to who ever wants it. I would think that China will go into that country bribe the corrupt officials, bring in their army of workers and stay for a 1000 years. Turn Afghanistan into another Tibet.


USA was responsible for the formation of all the mujaheddin and Al-Qaida. USA left the region from 1989 to 2001 after soviets were defeated in 1989 leaving Pakistan with the 3.5 million refugees that have completely destroyed the peace of the country and the social fabric as the trained mujaheddin and other refugees are in all illegal trades in the country.

Pakistan was the only country that accepted these Afghan refugees Iran and Tajikistan kept them in camps and kicked them out after the defeat of Russia. Again USA in 2003 took their main forces from Afghan theater to Iraq that tilted the balance in the Taliban favor.
Pakistan will be blamed by the Western powers for everything under the sun. But what has been the contribution to the war on terror will be forgotten therefore Pakistan needs to have its independent foreign policy very urgently so as to protect itself from all its enemies Taliban, Al-Qaida and India as well and not be selective as dictated by the western powers or media from whom they should protect themselves.

To say that Pakistan is responsible for AL-Qaida’s and Taliban escape to Pakistan. The answer is that USA is responsible for that. The other objection is all Al-Qaida members are in Pakistan that is also a falsehood because USA has no proof of that and is not coming forward to provide that. Well USA has attacked through drones 100’s of times and has not killed any significant Al-Qaida member so far. If they had such a good intelligence about Pakistan they could have collobrated with Pakistan as such a subervient Government is ruling Pakistan at this time. But CIA and the American Governments have been the most incompetent and corrupt as can be seen from the basis of why the Iraq war was started and the reasons of why this particular recession started!! How can they are expected to be successful in other avenues of international relations, diplomacy and wars of occupation?

Let me ask you a question if USA/NATO are so competent or proactive why has the whole of Afghanistan become a safe haven and only in some cities is the rule of the Government of Afghanistan? So they want to blame all their failures on Pakistan this is very simple and the western press seems to be just a mouth piece of all this propaganda. Pakistan on the other hand is proactively taking back the land that was lost to the Taliban be it Swat, Malakand and South Waziristan.

What else USA wants after 5,000 Pakistani lives have been lost this year nearly double that were


The number of United States adversaries just keeps on growing,like a runaway train rolling aimlessly along. Guided only with a dysfunctional “Industrial Age” iron-cast gyroscope teetering on a corroded compass foundation…originating to it’s sordid destination,…an arcane antiquated “Foreign Policy” switching yard, scheduled for demolition? What is it America? We go from Iraq,to Afghanistan,to Pakistan,to Syria,to Bangladesh,back to Iran,then onto Sudan,revisiting Lebonan,back to North Korea via Burma,back to Libya then finish our tour of democracy onto the ungrateful people of “The Gaza Strip”,…? Who is our enemy,or is it in the mirror we wake-up to every day too cleanse our past agressions ,can someone please tell me?


I think its time to go beyond Drones with Pakistan. Time is running out. Its time to negotiate with Pakistans “Sovereignty” if they dont go after the Taliban in Balochistan. The time for Diplomatic track has to end now.


Great article.


I did hear Benazir Bhutto say bin Laden was dead. What was with that anyway? You can see her say it on youtube.

Keep in mind it’s the US who’s poisoning our gene pool with white phosphorus and who states they’re going to “exploit” the heavens with weapons.

We used over 350 tons of depleted uranium in Desert Storm.


Azmat, your conclusion is weakened because a couple of your premises are “debatable”, at best. You “promote” the terrorist’s propaganda about civilian causalities and it’s affect on the Pakistani public opinion. I seriously doubt that the rampant Anti-US opinion in this part of the world has anything to do with the drone attacks; after all, it predated the drone attacks. As to the “high” civilian casualty estimates; how innocent are people who knowingly associate and support these terrorists; terrorists who purposely murder as many “innocents” as possible?! Secondly, you say, “President Obama has announced that the U.S. will start withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan in July 2011” even though it has been made perfectly clear that that is a goal, which will only occur if “conditions on the ground” safely allow that to happen. By reporting it as a “promise”, you further the misinformation that stokes the Pakistani fear you use as a premise for your conclusion!


This guy is masking the real issue in diplo speak – the real question to ask why the Bush cabal killed 3000 of thier own people? To go after their very own asset?? A handful of people in the west are making fistful of money.


How the name of Obma will go in history depend on how he perform in Afghanistan. If he wins then he will be the first ruler/empror/president who ever won in Afghanistan. If he loses well then he will be in company of “Alexender the great”, Ganges khan, British empire and more recently Soviet Empire, and many other ambitious in the past.


Joining hands with Mullah Omar who provided sanctuary to Osama Bin laden ? You must be kidding. All this trouble to bring back Mullah. He is sure to return the favor by promptly restoring the safe heavens to Al-Qaida and all sundries that are now infesting Pakistan. Pakistan will then get to have Al-Qaida do its bidding and at the same time profess its fight against terrorism and continue to get its dole from Washington. Good try Azmat. You sure show your roots in the Pakistan bureaucracy, parroting their party line, though you are no longer working for Pakistan Gov.


When is the U.S. going to realize that Osama bin Laden is dead, but since this is a corporate war the U.S. will never get out of Afghanistan, meanwhile the country is going bankrupt, I am referring to the U.s.


A coalition with Mullah Omar would mean a coalition with Pakistani Government. Pakistanis support terror groups against international community just because they are not against Pakistan, what does this mean?

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