Deadly Fallout from Reopening of Pakistan Border Crossings: Taliban IED’s, US Drone Strikes on First Responders

Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologized to Pakistan over the November attack on a Pakistan border post in which the US killed 24 Pakistani troops. The apology was delivered on Tuesday and the first supply trucks passed through the Chaman border crossing into Afghanistan on Thursday (who knew Pakistan took July 4th off?). I noted on Thursday that the Express Tribune was reporting that “protection money” would once again be flowing to the Taliban in Afghanistan to secure safe passage for the supply convoys. I asked if we would see an uptick in Taliban attacks on NATO due to the increased cash flow. Sadly, it did not take long for an answer to that question, as the Taliban today has claimed responsibility for an IED attack yesterday that killed six Americans. And just in case you were wondering whether the reopening of the border crossings meant that the US would curtail drone strikes inside Pakistan, the US struck on Friday, just one day after the crossings opened. This was a particularly brutal attack, with missiles striking initially and then in at least two follow-up strikes at the same site. It seems likely that at least some of those targeted in the follow-on strikes may have been rescue personnel.

Here is my question from Thursday on whether the Taliban will be able to step up attacks on NATO due to increased cash flow from protection money:

It will be very interesting to see whether the Afghan Taliban is suddenly able to bring more weapons and IED’s into their attacks on NATO now that they have a renewed source of funding.

The Washington Post describes the IED attack that killed six Americans and the Taliban claiming responsibility:

All six troops killed in a weekend roadside bombing in eastern Afghanistan were Americans, NATO confirmed Monday.


The Taliban on Monday claimed responsibility for the deaths of the six U.S. troops — the latest caused by bombs planted by insurgents along roads, paths or mountain tracks.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement the blast struck the U.S. troops in their armored vehicle around 8 p.m. Sunday in Wardak province, just south of Kabul.

But the Taliban were busy, as that was not their only attack:

Also in the east, authorities said gunmen assassinated a chief prosecutor in Ghazni province Monday morning as he drove to work. Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, the deputy provincial governor, said Sahar Gul was shot twice — once in the head and once in the chest.

The Taliban routinely target Afghan government officials to weaken support for President Hamid Karzai’s administration.

It appears that despite Pakistan’s continued protests over US drone strikes, the US did not slow drone strikes either just before or just after the agreement that allowed the border crossings to reopen. There was a strike on July 1, just two days before Clinton issued her apology and then the strike on Friday, just one day after the first supply trucks in over six months crossed into Afghanistan.

More details on Friday’s strike come from al Jazeera:

At least 21 people have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan’s North Waziristan days after the South Asian country agreed to reopen the NATO supply routes into Afghanistan.

According to official sources, six missiles were fired from a US drone at a compound in Gharlamay village of Datta Khel town near the border with neighbouring Afghanistan.

Security officials identified the dead as “militants”.


The initial strike on a house killed nine. Then three others were killed in a second attack when they drove to the site to recover dead bodies. And a third drone killed another three five minutes later, a senior security official in Peshawar told the AFP news agency.

So not only is the US continuing to send drones into Pakistan when Pakistan’s citizens are demanding a stop to the practice, the worst aspects of those attacks are continuing. Even though it has been pointed out very clearly that it is US policy to send follow-on attacks on sites while rescuers are looking for victims of the attack and the UN has pointed out that this practice constitutes a war crime, the US continues the practice in the most offensive way possible by repeating it only one day after an event that could have been a major step forward in US-Pakistan relations.

Even though earlier in the year he may have been trying to dodge war crime accusations, John Brennan now has become a honey badger. He don’t care about war crimes or demands from Pakistan’s citizens and government.

7 replies
  1. What Constitution? says:

    Were any of the new drone strikes targeting people trying to deposit those new “protection money” checks? All things considered, at least there would be some indication that such people were actually affiliated with the Taliban and not merely “military-aged males”. Not funny, not funny at all. But not untrue, either. What a subtle strategy — almost like requiring al-Awlaki to show up in person to file a lawsuit to challenge presidential authority to murder him as a condition of “legal standing”, right? “Here’s a check, take it to the bank during daylight hours and deposit it; you might want to leave your kids at home when you do.”

  2. Frank33 says:

    Hillary has apologized. We might imagine that certain Swiss Bank accounts of certain Pakistani officials have had new contributions. The trucks are rolling and the drones are flying, and nation building in Afghanistan can continue. It is all good. But wait! The hard line Islamists are protesting.

    Thousands of followers of leading Islamist clerics began marching Sunday from the eastern city of Lahore to the capital, Islamabad, to protest Pakistan’s decision to once again let NATO move Afghanistan-bound supply convoys through the country after a seven-month hiatus.

    The protest was organized by the Defense of Pakistan Council, a coalition of hard-line religious groups that has among its leaders Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, an Islamic cleric who India claims engineered the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.

    Saeed, with the ISI organized the Mumbai massacres. Also protesting the delivery of war supplies is Hamid Gul, former ISI spy boss, and genuine terrorist. Actually, the Pakistan government is controlled by totally hard line Islamists. These protests obviously have the support of the hard-line Islamists in the Pakistan Government.

    What better way for Pakistan to humiliate Hillary and the US Government. These protests seem to emphasize what a failure Afghanistan has been and will be. The main US partner in terrorism, Pakistan may just be trying to increase the bribes received from US taxpayers. In any event, this is another Epic Failure to go along with all the other epic failures of the Phony Global War On Terror.

  3. Arbusto says:

    Who says America has lost its innovative edge. Paying your enemy to kill your troops, that’s innovation.

  4. GKJames says:

    Long shot, I know, but here goes: Is there ANY evidence (supposition, inference, rumor, pure off-the-wall speculation…) about the Administration’s thinking on this “double-tap” business? It seems inconceivable that alleged bad guys would go TO the scene of a blast; primitive they may be, but not dim. Is the follow-on strike, then, intended to kill any purported bad guy who survived? Anyone — even a non-bad guy — who comes on the scene to help? If so, on what grounds? Leaving aside (much as the US routinely does) ethical, legal, and moral concerns, and recognizing that there’s neither pressure for the US to stop doingwhat it’s doing* nor tangible, personal consequence to decision-makers, what’s the ultimate objective? What problem does Washington, on behalf of all of us supposedly, claim to be solving in order to justify handiwork evidencing depravity?

    *Pakistan’s indignation doesn’t convince. It has an air force robust and sophisticated enough to shoot down drones. It chooses not to do so.

  5. Jim White says:

    @GKJames: If you haven’t already, I urge you to read the link I gave from The Bureau for Investigative Journalism, who first broke that story.

    From my reading, I would think that the US will claim that the militants very closely control access to their safe houses and are quick to retrieve and dispose of the bodies of those killed in order to foil US attempts at identifying the dead. So of course, the only people rummaging through the site would be bad guys with bad motives. There also are numerous quotes in the Pakistani press now that reflect that the average citizen in the street is hesitant to go to a strike site because they know a follow-on is likely. I would counter-argue that it would still be hard for any passer-by to resist the call of a wounded neighbor, whether they are part of the neighbor’s activities or not.

    An interesting observation that might play a little bit into the explanation from the US is that the article about the July 1 strike notes that a fire broke out when the missile hit. I haven’t seen any reference to multiple strikes being used on that attack, so it is at least theoretically possible that later attacks were held off to prevent killing firefighters.

    It’s not clear whether the three strike attack on Friday resulted in a fire, but it’s hard to see how there wouldn’t be at least something burning after all of that, so I wonder if a local firefighter or other rescue crew person was killed.

  6. What Constitution? says:

    $4 million per Predator drone (source: Wikipedia). $100K per Hellfire missile (Source: Wired 2008, maybe lower today on a volume basis). We’re firing second missiles into “first responders” with what kind of basic economic justification? To make the rubble bounce? I know, I know, we spend $20 Billion per year to air condition our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, but $100K-plus per individual kill of a “military aged male” over there? Is it Safe For Democracy yet?

  7. GKJames says:

    @Jim White: Thanks. Your BIJ cite reveals a pretty rudimentary thought process. The President claims a “targeted, focused effort,” as if that were the issue. We KNOW it’s “targeted” and “focused.” It’s the targeting and focusing which are the problem. And that the drone campaign “has not caused a HUGE number of civilian casualties” [my emphasis] betrays the cavalier attitude that comes with decision-makers’ immunity to consequences.

    Less clear — and this goes to the public policy question for many of us — is how the Administration calculates the acceptable number of civilian casualties (assuming there’s a limit), and how it determines whether a particular target is of such high value that the collateral damage, relative to the policy objectives, is worthwhile.

    Brennan’s no better, of course. His because-we-say-it’s-legal principle, on the basis of which the US claims the lawful right to kill — anywhere in the world at any occasion … they do weddings and funerals, apparently — anyone it deems deserving, is certainly not a position he and his master would dare subject to full scrutiny in an Article III court, let alone at The Hague.

    What remains unclear, though, is the thought process behind killing first-responders. If the assumption is as you suggest — “the only people rummaging through the site would be bad guys with bad motives” — that’s one hell of an assumption. Based on what facts? If the “average citizen” is known to avoid a strike site because he assumes a follow-on, isn’t it likely that the purported bad guys are doing the same?

    Ultimately, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, in Washington, the order of the day is a shoulder-shrugging, wrong-place-wrong-time logic. It goes with the premise that, if you’re even in the neighborhood you’re guilty … of something, whatever the US government decides that to be. Worse, a majority of Americans probably agrees. If that’s the case, let’s at least have the public record accurately reflect what’s being done and our policy-makers’ justifications for it.

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