Three things have recently gotten me thinking about the legitimacy of US counterterrorism in Pakistan in terms of the partners we choose:
- UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson, using the opposition to US drone strikes of Pakistan’s political classes as the basis for claiming the drones are illegitimate, in spite of the silence of Pakistan’s national security class.
- General Joseph Dunford’s recent suggestion that the solution to US difficulties with Pakistan is to increase military-to-military ties; never mind that Admiral Mike Mullen had put a lot of faith in just such a plan as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, only to be disappointed by Pakistan’s support for the insurgency in Afghanistan.
- The recent Pakistani court ruling declaring drones illegal (note, some international law experts have told me the decision is problematic on those terms, but nevertheless, it represents Pakistani courts censoring the policy supported by the national security establishment).
After all, everyone marginally attentive to drones in Pakistan knows the game: the US and the ISI and Pakistan’s military make agreements permitting the US to launch drone strikes in Pakistan — at both US and Pakistani targets — while the political and judicial classes in Pakistan increasingly voice their opposition.
To sustain its claim that its drone strikes in Pakistan operate with the sanction of the government, it seems, the Obama Administration must treat the consent of the military as more legitimate than that of the political classes. Our necessary disdain for what Pakistan’s fragile democracy has to say is precisely the kind of thing I meant when I talked about how drones undermine the nation-state.
Mind you, I think the US is giving unelected national security figures an increasingly large role in legitimizing its counterterrorism and counternarcotic programs in a lot of places (a topic I suspect I’ll return to). It’s one natural outcome of waging diplomacy primarily by military training.
Anyway, with all that in mind, I wanted to point to this explanation for why NYT’s reporter Declan Walsh was thrown out of Pakistan just before the elections (note: someone on Twitter pointed this out — though I’ve lost track of who said it).
Declan Walsh was thrown out for apparently annoying the military back in February with a story about conflict between the CIA and the ISI over the use of drone missiles.
These two stories — in which the CIA and ISI squabbled over who conducted two drone strikes in Waziristan in early February (significantly, the day before and the day after John Brennan’s February 7 confirmation hearing; the CIA had appeared to hold off on strikes during his confirmation because of sensitivity about drones) — appear like they may be the ones in question.
The first article, published March 4, the night before the Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Brennan’s nomination, cited 3 “American officials” denying the strikes were ours, and adding that the CIA had not engaged in such activities since January (that is, since Brennan’s nomination).
Yet there was one problem, according to three American officials with knowledge of the program: The United States did not carry out those attacks.
“They were not ours,” said one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the drone program’s secrecy. “We haven’t had any kinetic activity since January.”