The increased reliance on drone strikes in United States counter-terrorism doctrine seems to have taken a turn for the worse. Be it Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen, the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) favourite mode of operations will now see an institutionalisation in President Barack Obama’s second term.
Apparently, the US national security team is finalising the drafting of a counter-terrorism manual or ‘playbook’ that lists guidelines for targeted operations for the CIA. The exception is Pakistan’s restive tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, where there will be no restrictions on the use of the unmanned Predator aircraft or drones as they are popularly known. But will this only be for Pakistan, where thousands of civilians have already fallen prey to these strikes? The US penchant for sending the drones to take out anyone deemed a terrorist or even suspect elsewhere is well known. For instance, on Thursday, yet another drone strike killed at least seven Al Qaida suspects in Yemen adding to the ‘collateral damage’ on a steady rise over the past two years.
Moreover, with the rise and resurgence of militant groups in Mali, Algeria and Somalia there is a strong possibility that Obama will give Langley the go ahead to extend the drone ambit into North Africa. Not only have these strikes spurred extremism, they have also opened a whole new debate on the legalities of advanced weapon systems that are not considerate of civilians. While there is justifiable condemnation against the US for adopting such a brutal modus operandi, states like Pakistan and to a lesser extent Yemen — irrespective of their dependence on US military and non-military aid — bear equal responsibility. It is time their governments draw red lines in cooperating with an ally whose callousness in killing thousands of innocent men, women and children is tantamount to the worst of war crimes, not to forget violations of sovereignty. What is there to stop other world powers from adopting similar techniques in the name of pre-emptive deterrence?
It is time Obama takes stock of the consequences of his killing machines and looks at alternative options. Sanctioning the murder of innocents is not justified in any way.