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Drone Wars Lead to Roving Death Squads in Pakistan

Drone nose (photo: Feuillu/Flickr)

Here’s another unfortunate and completely predictable consequence of our drone wars: when they become unsustainable, and the CIA or JSOC have to leave the country which they carpet-bombed, the natives who helped them designate targets get marked for death.

Militant groups lack the ability to bring down the drones, which have killed senior Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders as well as many foot soldiers. Instead, a collection of them have banded together to form Khorasan Mujahedin in the North Waziristan tribal region to hunt for those who sell information about the location of militants and their safe houses.

Pakistani officials and tribal elders maintain that most of those who are abducted this way are innocent, but after being beaten, burned with irons or scalded with boiling water, almost all eventually “confess.” And few ever come back […]

“In the sky there are drones, and on the ground there’s Khorasan Mujahedin,” said the relative. “Villagers are extremely terrorized. Whenever there’s a drone strike, within 24 hours Khorasan Mujahedin comes in and takes people away.”

Those abducted tell stories of torture, and few of them live to tell those stories. So a villager in the Waziristan region has to avoid the drone strike and the band of marauders looking to assign blame. The CIA exploits desperate poverty in the region by offering large sums to informants. That clearly does not come with any personal safeguards. What’s more, the Khorasan Mujahedin doesn’t seem to care whether they kill someone innocent of informing or guilty of it. They want merely to send a message. So drone strikes that sometimes kill innocents perpetuate revenge killings that often kill innocents.

By the way, the Pakistani military operates under a peace deal with the head of the Taliban in the region, so the Khorasan Mujahedin encounters little if any resistance.

Somehow I think these significantly negative side effects of the drone wars will contribute to the eventual blowback. We’re not only terrorizing the countryside by the air, we aren’t stopping the continued terrorism on the ground. So villagers have a choice: side with the Americans, or against the forces leading to their destruction.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Drone Wars Lead to Roving Death Squads in Pakistan

Here’s another unfortunate and completely predictable consequence of our drone wars: when they become unsustainable, and the CIA or JSOC have to leave the country which they carpet-bombed, the natives who helped them designate targets get marked for death.

Militant groups lack the ability to bring down the drones, which have killed senior Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders as well as many foot soldiers. Instead, a collection of them have banded together to form Khorasan Mujahedin in the North Waziristan tribal region to hunt for those who sell information about the location of militants and their safe houses.

Pakistani officials and tribal elders maintain that most of those who are abducted this way are innocent, but after being beaten, burned with irons or scalded with boiling water, almost all eventually “confess.” And few ever come back […]

“In the sky there are drones, and on the ground there’s Khorasan Mujahedin,” said the relative. “Villagers are extremely terrorized. Whenever there’s a drone strike, within 24 hours Khorasan Mujahedin comes in and takes people away.”

Those abducted tell stories of torture, and few of them live to tell those stories. So a villager in the Waziristan region has to avoid the drone strike and the band of marauders looking to assign blame. The CIA exploits desperate poverty in the region by offering large sums to informants. That clearly does not come with any personal safeguards. What’s more, the Khorasan Mujahedin doesn’t seem to care whether they kill someone innocent of informing or guilty of it. They want merely to send a message. So drone strikes that sometimes kill innocents perpetuate revenge killings that often kill innocents.

By the way, the Pakistani military operates under a peace deal with the head of the Taliban in the region, so the Khorasan Mujahedin encounters little if any resistance.

Somehow I think these significantly negative side effects of the drone wars will contribute to the eventual blowback. We’re not only terrorizing the countryside by the air, we aren’t stopping the continued terrorism on the ground. So villagers have a choice: side with the Americans, or against the forces leading to their destruction.

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David Dayen

David Dayen