Category Archives: Pakistan

CIA’s Pakistan drone strikes carried out by regular US air force personnel

Chris Woods writes for The Guardian:

A regular US air force unit based in the Nevada desert is responsible for flying the CIA‘s drone strike programme in Pakistan, according to a new documentary to be released on Tuesday.

The film – which has been three years in the making – identifies the unit conducting CIA strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas as the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron, which operates from a secure compound in a corner of Creech air force base, 45 miles from Las Vegas in the Mojave desert.

Several former drone operators have claimed that the unit’s conventional air force personnel – rather than civilian contractors – have been flying the CIA’s heavily armed Predator missions in Pakistan, a 10-year campaign which according to some estimates has killed more than 2,400 people.

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Nine-month-old baby attempted murder charges thrown out by Pakistan court

Heather Sual reports for The Independent:

A judge in Pakistan has thrown out charges of attempted murder against a nine-month-old baby on Saturday, lawyers said, after the infant appeared in court for a second time. At his first appearance in court last week, baby Musa Khan cried while his fingerprints were taken by a court official.

He appeared in court in the city of Lahore again today, calmly sitting on his grandfather’s lap and drinking from a bottle of milk after being bailed. But the judge said the case should never have come to court

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Pakistani baby taken into hiding after attempted murder charge

From Reuters:

Relatives of a nine-month old baby charged with attempted murder in Pakistan have taken him into hiding, one said on Tuesday, in a case that has thrown a spotlight on Pakistan’s dysfunctional criminal justice system. Baby Musa Khan appeared in court in the city of Lahore last week, charged with attempted murder along with his father and grandfather after a mob protesting against gas cuts and price increases stoned police and gas company workers trying to collect overdue bills.

“Police are vindictive. Now they are trying to settle the issue on personal grounds, that’s why I sent my grandson to Faisalabad for protection,” the baby’s grandfather, Muhammad Yasin, told Reuters, referring to a central Pakistani city. The baby is on bail and due to appear at the next hearing on April 12 but Yasin said he was not sure if he would take him to court for the case.

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Artists install massive poster of child’s face in Pakistan field to shame drone operators

Tom Boggioni reports for Raw Story:

notabugsplat_facebook

An artists collective has unfurled a massive poster showing a child’s face in a heavily bombed area of Pakistan in the hopes that it will give pause to drone operators searching the area for kills.

According to #notabugsplat, named after the description given to kills on the ground when viewed through grainy video footage, the artists – with help of villagers – unfurled the giant poster in a field in the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan.

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Who are U.S. drones killing? Lawmakers ask Obama

Olivier Knox reports for Yahoo News:

Photo: STML/ Creative Commons/ FlickrAre drone strikes creating more enemies for America than they are killing extremists? That’s the question at the heart of new bipartisan legislation aimed at requiring the executive branch to issue an annual report detailing the combatant and civilian death toll from missile strikes by U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, a top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, a frequent critic of “war on terrorism” policies, introduced the “Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act.” The goal? Find out who is dying in drone strikes.

…The measure calls for an annual report on the number of combatants and civilians killed or injured in strikes by remotely piloted aircraft. It also aims to require that the administration define what it considers “combatants” and “civilians.” And it seeks a full accounting of casualties over the past five years… The bill would exclude strikes in “theaters of conflict” — which really just means Afghanistan, Schiff said. That’s because singling out drone strikes, as opposed to bombings, raids and firefights, is of “less significance in a war zone than in a third country,” he explained.

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U.S. Taxpayers To Pay $400,000 For A Camel Sculpture In Pakistan

Aram Roston writes for BuzzFeed:

Bowles courtesy of Hall Wines / Via hallwines.comThe State Department is planning to spend $400,000 in taxpayer funds to buy a sculpture for the new American embassy being built in Islamabad, Pakistan, according to contracting records.

The work, by noted American artist John Baldessari, depicts a life-size white camel made of fiberglass staring in puzzlement at the eye of an oversize shiny needle — a not-so-subtle play on the New Testament phrase about the difficulty the wealthy have in entering the kingdom of heaven.

Officials explained the decision to purchase the piece of art, titled “Camel Contemplating Needle,” in a four-page document justifying a “sole source” procurement.

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If Modi wins election, neighbours can expect a more muscular India

Sanjeev Miglani writes for Reuters:

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Gujarat's chief minister, addresses his supporters during a rally in Amroha, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 29, 2014. REUTERS/Adnan AbidiIndia will get tougher on territorial disputes with China and in its old rivalry with Pakistan if opposition leader Narendra Modi becomes the prime minister in May after a general election, two of his aides said. Modi, a Hindu nationalist who is the front-runner to win the five-week election starting on April 7, has taken an aggressive tone against the two neighboring nations. On the campaign trail, he has warned Beijing to shed its “mindset of expansionism” and in the past he has railed against Pakistan, an Islamic state, for attacks by Muslim militants in India…

India, China and Pakistan are all nuclear powers. They are also jockeying to take positions in Afghanistan as Western troops start to withdraw from the war-torn nation after a 12-year insurgency. India has fought three wars with Pakistan and had a 1962 border skirmish with China. It came close to a fourth war with Pakistan in 2001 but since then, its foreign policy has been mostly benign. Modi has painted the ruling Congress party, which has been in power for more than 50 of the 67 years since India became independent, as weak on national security. However, the country is one of the top buyers worldwide of military hardware, purchasing about $12.7 billion in arms during 2007-2011, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, everything from basic military goods to an aircraft carrier.

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Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden’s Hideout and Protected Him, NYT Reporter Confirms

John Glaser writes for Antiwar:

Osama_bin_Laden_compound2After the killing of Osama bin Laden, Pakistan vehemently denied any knowledge that the most wanted terrorist operative in the world had lived in a protected compound in Abbottabad just a few short miles from Pakistan’s military academy. Nobody really believed them. Senior U.S. officials would, when asked by the press, give the Pakistani government a verbal licking, but only in vague terms that declined to confirm what seemed obvious to everyone: that Pakistan did know of bin Laden’s hideout there.

New York Times journalist Carlotta Gall, who spent more than a decade reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan has pretty well confirmed that Pakistan not only knew of bin Laden’s presence, but actively protected him. More than that, the U.S. government knows they knew, and the Pakistanis know they know they knew.

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SIPRI Report: India remains world’s largest arms buyer

Michael Pizzi reports for Al Jazeera:

India remains the world’s largest arms buyer by a huge margin, even as regional rivalries spur the flow of arms to other countries in Asia, according to a report released Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). India increased its arms imports by 111 percent in the past five years compared with 2004–08, and it now accounts for 14 percent of the world’s arms imports. The mainly Russian-supplied flow of arms to India dwarfs the imports of its regional rivals China and Pakistan, the second- and third-largest buyers.

…The United States and Russia dominate arms exports — over half the market, combined — but their business has diversified and shifted focus from Europe toward emerging world powers such as India, Brazil and China. Even as European imports declined by a full quarter over the past five years, the volume of global arms sales climbed 14 percent in 2009 through 2013 compared with the previous five-year period, SIPRI found. Because arms sales fluctuate year to year, SIPRI uses a five-year average to provide a more stable measure of trends.

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Covering conflict and corruption, journalists face rising threat of violence and imprisonment

‘Egypt’s arrest and trial of three Al-Jazeera journalists, charged with assisting the Muslim Brotherhood, has prompted outcry around the world. The case helps highlight growing dangers to journalists worldwide, especially in countries caught in war or turmoil. In 2013, 119 members of the press died while on assignment. Alison Bethel McKenzie of the International Press Institute and David Rohde of Reuters join Jeffrey Brown to discuss the hazards.’ (PBS Newshour)

Bone King: Barack Obama is the face of contraband Viagra in Pakistan

John Byrne reports for Raw Story:

viagra

Despite unpopularity there for his frequent drone attacks, President Barack Obama is the new face of contraband Viagra in Pakistan. Pakistan, where Viagra is banned, has a thriving black market for erectile dysfunction drugs. The little blue pills are often smuggled in through Afghanistan, and take up shelf space alongside drugs of dubious quality and origin.

Agence France-Presse, whose reporter calls Obama an unwitting “symbol of power and virility,” shows covers of the contraband drug alongside interview with merchants. Shopkeepers claim various reasons that clients buy the drugs; one explains that “they improve the duration of those who have destroyed their youth through masturbation.”

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Pakistani party ends blockade of NATO route after change in US drone policy

From the Daily Times:

The provincial government in Pakistan’s northwest state of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has said it has ended a more than three-month blockade of a NATO supply route to Afghanistan over contentious US drone strikes in the country, citing change in policy, Aljazeera reported. Until Thursday, the Tehreek-e-Insaf party, led by cricketer turned politician Imran Khan, had been blocking the route to pressure Washington to end drone attacks targeting armed groups in the region bordering Afghanistan. Khan himself has led these protests and has been a vocal critic of drone attacks in Pakistan.

In a statement, Khan’s party said it ended the protest after seeing a change in the US drone policy. Their decision also comes days after a Pakistani court ordered authorities to end the blockade of transit goods into landlocked Afghanistan. The party’s top leadership also “felt that the pressure of the blockade had already resulted in a shift in the Obama administration’s drone policy and as a result drones had been stopped for the present”, the statement read. It also said it ended the protest to respect the court order.

Party official Fiaz Ahmad Khalil said the blockade lasted 97 days. “We are happy that the American government has stopped drone attacks, and we are also positively responding by ending our protest,” Khalil said. Khan’s party launched the blockade after a US drone strike in November killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

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95 killed, 388 injured in 40 bomb attacks in Pakistan in February

Xinhuanet reports:

At least 95 people were killed and 388 others injured in 40 bomb blasts in Pakistan during February as the militants carried on terrorist attacks across the country, according to official statistics. Out of total 40 bomb attacks, six were of suicide nature that killed 34 people and injured 118 others in different areas of the country.

According to the statistics, the number of causalities during February were almost 44 percent less than the causalities occurred in January 2014. On month-on-month basis, comparison showed that the number of killing in bomb blasts during Feb. 2014 decreased by almost 38 percent compared to the same period last year.

During February, no high profile official came under attack, but militants targeted civilians, security forces and police. The worst attack of the period came on Feb. 13 when a suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying police personnel in the country’s southern port city of Karachi, killing 14 personnel and leaving 58 others injured.

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Leaked official document records 330 drone strikes in Pakistan

Bibi Mamana (BBC Panorama)From The Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

The document is the fullest official record of drone strikes in Pakistan to have yet been published. It provides rare insight into what the government understands about the campaign.

It also provides details about exactly when and where strikes took place, often including the names of homeowners. These details can be valuable to researchers attempting to verify eyewitness reports – and are often not reported elsewhere. But interestingly, the document stops recording civilian casualties after 2008, even omitting details of well-documented civilian deaths and those that have been acknowledged by the government.

Last July the Bureau published part of the document for the first time. This documented strikes, which hit the northwest tribal areas of Pakistan between 2006 and late 2009, and revealed that the Pakistani government was aware of hundreds of civilian casualties, even in strikes where it had officially denied civilians had died.

The reports are based on information filed to the FATA Secretariat each evening by local Political Agents – senior officials in the field. These agents gather the information from networks of informants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the area bordering Afghanistan.

Now the Bureau has obtained an updated version of the document, which lists attacks up to late September 2013.

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Malala Yousafzai memoir launch scrapped in Pakistan

Photograph: Olivia Harris/ReutersFrom The Guardian:

An attempt to launch the memoir of the Pakistani schoolgirl who became a global icon after being shot in the head by the Taliban in her home province has been scuppered by opposition from local politicians.

Malala Yousafzai‘s book was due to be launched at an event on Monday at Peshawar University but organisers were forced to scrap it after the intervention of two senior members of the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KP).

The episode underlines the antipathy among many Pakistanis towards the 16-year-old who campaigned for education in the face of Taliban opposition.

While she has been hailed in the west for her campaign against extremism, in Pakistan she is widely regarded with suspicion, with many people believing conspiracy theories that the story of the Taliban attempt to assassinate her as she travelled to school in October 2012 was untrue or exaggerated.

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Al Qaeda’s Next Comeback Could Be Afghanistan And Pakistan

Photo by Reuters/LandovFrom The Daily Beast:

Al-Qaeda has staged a remarkable comeback in Iraq in the last year.  Former National Security Advisor Jim Jones has called it “al-Qaeda’s renaissance.” This year, most if not all American forces and those of our allies in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will finally come home from Afghanistan.  Will al-Qaeda have another renaissance in South Asia?

There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before 9/11—the terror organization moved into Iraq only when Osama bin Laden saw George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were getting ready to invade Iraq in 2003.  He set a trap.  By 2006 Al-Qaeda in Iraq had plunged the country into civil war, pitting Shia against Sunni.  Only the brave efforts of American Marines and GIs prevented the complete collapse of the state.  Now al-Qaeda has come back in Iraq, raising its black flag over territory once fought over so hard by Americans.

Can the same tragedy be repeated in Afghanistan and Pakistan?  The longest war in American history will largely end for Americans this year.  It will not end for Afghans or Pakistanis.  Pakistan will continue to be the principal supporter and patron of the Afghan Taliban, the enemy that we have been fighting for so long.  Pakistan provides the Taliban with safe haven and sanctuary to train and recruit its fighters and protects its leaders, including Mullah Omar.  The Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, helps train and fund the Taliban.

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Study: Indo-Pak nuclear war to ‘end civilization’ with famine

From AFP:

A nuclear war between India and Pakistan would set off a global famine that could kill two billion people and effectively end human civilization, a study said on Tuesday.

Even if limited in scope, a conflict with nuclear weapons would wreak havoc in the atmosphere and devastate crop yields, with the effects multiplied as global food markets went into turmoil, the report said.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Physicians for Social Responsibility released an initial peer-reviewed study in April 2012 that predicted a nuclear famine could kill more than a billion people.

In a second edition, the groups said they widely underestimated the impact in China and calculated that the world’s most populous country would face severe food insecurity.

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Pakistani Citizens Stopping All Trucks On Main NATO Supply Route After Latest Drone Strike

Ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf released

From The News International:

Pervez Musharraf was released from the sub-jail after he submitted two surety bonds of Rs100,000, two days after being granted bail in the murder case of Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Rasheed Ghazi.

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Saudi nuclear weapons ‘on order’ from Pakistan

Saudi Arabia’s undisclosed missile siteFrom BBC News:

Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will, a variety of sources have told BBC Newsnight.

While the kingdom’s quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran’s atomic programme, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic.

Earlier this year, a senior Nato decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.

Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, “the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.”

Since 2009, when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned visiting US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross that if Iran crossed the threshold, “we will get nuclear weapons”, the kingdom has sent the Americans numerous signals of its intentions.

Gary Samore, until March 2013 President Barack Obama’s counter-proliferation adviser, has told Newsnight:

“I do think that the Saudis believe that they have some understanding with Pakistan that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan.”

The story of Saudi Arabia’s project – including the acquisition of missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads over long ranges – goes back decades.

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US Broke Promise of No Drone Strikes During Pakistan Peace Talks

From Antiwar:

Friday drone strike which killed Pakistani Taliban (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud was particularly galling, according to Pakistani officials, because they’d received specific promises that the US would not carry out any strikes during the Pakistani peace talks.

Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister for Pakistan’s Punjab Province and the younger brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says he was assured at “high levels” that there would be no drone strikes during the Sharif government’s peace dialogue with the TTP.

The US State Department shrugged off the complaints, insisting that Pakistan’s peace talks were an “internal matter” and unrelated to the drone strike, even though it targeted Hakimullah and other leaders of the group Pakistan is trying to negotiate with.

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Jeremy Scahill: The first drone strike authorised under Obama in Yemen killed 36 women and children

Pakistan accuses US of ‘murdering hopes of peace’ following death of Taliban leader in drone strike

Mehsud in 2008From The Independent:

Pakistan has accused the US of “murdering the hopes of peace” after the leader of the Taliban was killed by a CIA drone strike on the eve of a meeting between militants and representatives of the government.

The country’s security forces were placed on high alert after the Taliban vowed to carry out a series of revenge attacks after Hakimullah Mehsud was killed at a compound at Dande Derpa Khel in North Waziristan. The body of the 34-year-old was hastily buried and various Taliban groups reportedly met on today in order to select a new leader.

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US Drone Strike Kills 25, Including Pakistani Taliban Leader

From Antiwar:

Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud has been “confirmed” killed by US drones so many times it’s become a recurring joke. However the tenth (or by some counts eleventh) time may have been the charm, as unnamed Pakistani Taliban sources reportedly confirmed his death in today’s attack, which killed at least 25 people in Dandy Darpa Khel.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan condemned the attack, saying it was a US effort to “sabotage” the peace process with the Pakistani Taliban.

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CIA’s Washington Post Leaks Aimed At Silencing Drone Critics: Interview with Gareth Porter

Meet the One-Man Legal Machine Pursuing Justice For Pakistani Drone Strike Victims

From Alternet:

[...] Along with Khan and three other victims, Akbar filed criminal charges against Jonathan Banks, the CIA station chief in Pakistan who was responsible for giving the green light on the drone attacks. With his cover blown by the legal case, the CIA station chief was yanked out of the country within two days. Since Khan’s pioneering litigation, others have broken their silence and come forward to seek justice through legal action.

“In the beginning I wasn’t sure that this is something I would do for a long time. It was just about proving my point,” Akbar told AlterNet. But what started off as proving a point has now become Akbar’s legacy.

In 2011, Akbar created the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, an organization that provides legal aid to enforce fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution of Pakistan. Not only is Akbar the co-founder, legal director and a trustee of this foundation, he is also a legal fellow at Reprieve, a UK based organization that promotes the rule of law around the world. Akbar’s fight is a tough one, and Reprieve provides him with much needed “moral, financial and emotional support.”

Together with other lawyers and researchers in Waziristan, Akbar now represents 156 drone strike victims. While these cases have yet to be resolved, they have played an important role in bringing attention “to the issue of the illegality of drone strikes,” Akbar says.

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Congressional No-Show at ‘Heart-Breaking’ Drone Survivor Hearing

From Common Dreams:

Despite being heralded as the first time in history that U.S. lawmakers would hear directly from the survivors of a U.S. drone strike, only five elected officials chose to attend the congressional briefing that took place Tuesday.

Pakistani schoolteacher Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children—9 year-old daughter Nabila and 13 year-old son Zubair—came to Washington, DC to give their account of a U.S. drone attack that killed Rafiq’s mother, Momina Bibi, and injured the two children in the remote tribal region of North Waziristan last October.

According to journalist Anjali Kamat, who was present and tweeting live during the hearing, the only lawmakers to attend the briefing organized by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), were Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.).

Before the handful of reporters and scant lawmakers, however, Rafiq and his children gave dramatic testimony which reportedly caused the translator to break down into tears.

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White House admits killing civilians with drone strikes, denies breaking law

From NBC News:

Two leading human rights groups released detailed reports on U.S. drone strikes Tuesday that accuse the government of killing civilians and violating international law. The White House admitted killing civilians, but denied breaking the law, saying the strikes were “precise” and “lawful.”

Amnesty International, which studied 45 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2012 and 2013, said the U.S. violated the internationally recognized “right to life” and may have committed war crimes.

[...] Asked about the reports Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that “we would strongly disagree” with claims that the U.S. had acted contrary to international law.

“U.S. counterterrorism actions are precise, they are lawful, and they are effective,” said Carney.  “I think it’s important to note that by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.”

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U.S. drone strikes radicalizing a new generation

Watch this videoFrom CNN:

The Sabaoon School for boys in northern Pakistan is anything but average.

Nestled amid the bucolic charm of the Swat Valley’s fertile terraced fields and steeply rising crags it looks idyllic. But if you get up close, a harsher reality becomes clear.

Two army check-posts scrutinize visitors entering the sprawling site. Once inside, the high razor wire-topped walls around the classroom compounds create a feeling reminiscent of a prison.

The boys here, aged 8 to 18, were all militants at some point. Some are killers, some helped build and plant improvised explosive devices, and others were destined to be suicide bombers until they were captured or turned over to the Pakistani army. All of them are at the school to be de-radicalized.

Ninety-nine percent of the boys, I am told, have never heard of Osama bin Laden, despite the fact he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in the next valley over from here. What has radicalized these boys instead, the school’s director says, is what turns teenagers the world over to crime: poverty, poor education, limited prospects and often lack of parental control.

It is in this setting that the boys have made ready recruits for Taliban scouts who wean them on tales of the U.S. drone strikes that have killed scores of Pakistani women and children over the past few years.

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Secret memos reveal explicit nature of U.S., Pakistan agreement on drones

This map shows the predator strike history between December 1, 2009 and January 21, 2010.From The Washington Post:

Despite repeatedly denouncing the CIA’s drone campaign, top officials in Pakistan’s government have for years secretly endorsed the program and routinely received classified briefings on strikes and casualty counts, according to top-secret CIA documents and Pakistani diplomatic memos obtained by The Washington Post.

The files describe dozens of drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal region and include maps as well as before-and-after aerial photos of targeted compounds over a four-year stretch from late 2007 to late 2011 in which the campaign intensified dramatically.

Markings on the documents indicate that many of them were prepared by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center specifically to be shared with Pakistan’s government. They tout the success of strikes that killed dozens of alleged al-Qaeda operatives and assert repeatedly that no civilians were harmed.

Pakistan’s tacit approval of the drone program has been one of the more poorly kept national security secrets in Washington and Islamabad. During the early years of the campaign, the CIA even used Pakistani airstrips for its Predator fleet.

But the files expose the explicit nature of a secret arrangement struck between the two countries at a time when neither was willing to publicly acknowledge the existence of the drone program. The documents detailed at least 65 strikes in Pakistan and were described as “talking points” for CIA briefings, which occurred with such regularity that they became a matter of diplomatic routine. The documents are marked “top ­secret” but cleared for release to Pakistan.

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