Drone strikes increase after Mullen's statement

ISLAMABAD - A significant decrease in drone attacks has been observed in the month of September after General David Petraeus took charge of his office as the head of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) however, following the emergence of Pak-US tensions over Kabul attacks, their number increased sharply during the same month. The Conflict Monitoring Centre (CMC) has stated this in its report released for the month of September. The report says that US spy agency, CIA, has carried out four drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal area killing as many as 22 people during the month of September 2011. Whereas during first nine months of the current year, CIA has carried out 66 drone attacks in Pakistan killing as many as 515 people, reveals the data compiled by CMC. The report says that significant reduction in drone attacks has been witnessed during the first month of General David Petraeus in his office as head of CIA. "But after the relations between Pakistan and US soared as a result of militants' attacks on NATO headquarters and US embassy in Kabul, a sudden rise in number of drone attacks has been observed," says the report. According to the data compiled by the CMC - an Islamabad based research organisation which monitors drone attacks and anti-state militant activities in South Asia, CIA has carried out only four drone attacks during the month of September 2011 killing 22 people and injuring 9 personnel. CMC reported that first 22 days of September saw only one drone attack. "When tension started between Pakistan and US over allegations of Admiral Mike Mullen's statements against Pakistan' premier intelligence agency-ISI, CIA struck three times with its deadly drones inside Pakistani territory during the last seven days of September," it added. According to the comparison with previous year's month of September, this year's September saw a remarkable reduction in drone attacks and subsequent killings. September 2010 was deadliest ever month since 2004 when 147 people were killed in 23 (highest ever number of) drone attacks. Conflict Monitoring Centre has also observed that CIA had lessened number of drone attacks in Pakistan since July. June was the deadliest month of current year when 117 people were killed in 12 drone attacks. July and August saw six drones attacks apiece. It clearly shows that drone attacks are not merely attached with militant activities. Most of those killed in during the month of September were unknown suspected militants however; US officials claimed that Al-Qaeda's operational chief in Pakistan Abu Hafs Al-Shahri was killed on September 11. Deputy to TTP's Mulla Nazir group commander Haleemullah was also killed in another drone attack. Out of 66 drone attacks carried out during the first nine months of current year, 37 (56 percent) were carried out after the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad Operation on May 2, 2011. Out of 515 deaths, 324 (62 percent) were killed after Bin Laden's death. During first nine months of the previous year (2010), the CIA had carried out 80 drone attacks in which 625 people were killed. The data shows 18.5 percent reduction in drone attacks and subsequent deaths during first nine month of this year with comparison to previous year. CMC report says, instead, United States uses this lethal weapon for its punitive approach towards Pakistan. During the year 2011, CIA has carried out a number of attacks, which were punitive in nature. An exclusive report by Associated Press revealed that some of the drone attacks were apparently in the nature of the CIA's revenge acts against the ISI. The infamous drone attack of March 17, which killed 40 innocent tribesmen attending a tribal Jirga, it now transpires, was indeed a revenge act for the detention of CIA operative Raymond Davis for 7 weeks in custody in Lahore for killing two Pakistanis. The chilling words of a US official, quoted in the AP story: "It was in retaliation for Davis. The CIA was angry." Apart from above mentioned attack on a tribal Jirga the CIA has carried out a drone attack after every high level meeting between Pakistani and American officials during the year 2011. Among them were attacks that followed an April visit by Director General ISI Ahmad Shuja Pasha to Washington as well as trips to Islamabad by Senator John Kerry and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The latest such strike occurred on August 2, 2011 while the US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Marc Grossman, was visiting Islamabad. Such revenge attacks by the CIA raise the issue of legality of this campaign, which is already controversial all over the world. It is well known fact that drone attacks work as a cause of recruitment of members of the affected families into militants ranks. Politically motivated attacks by US spy agency are causing more complications for Pakistan to restore peace in the area. According to the report, CIA has intensified its drone campaign against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It indicates that US has ramped up its drone-strike capacity in the region, installing unmanned Predator aircraft in bases in Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Djibouti, a Gulf of Aden port that has served as a US counter-terrorism base since 2004. According to Washington Post, the CIA also created a new dedicated unit known as YSD, or the Yemen-Somalia Department, where dozens of agents analyse raw intelligence with a view to targeting al-Qaeda leaders. US has killed a prominent al-Qaeda leader Anwar Al-Awlaki during the previous month that was also an American citizen. Awlaki's death is considered a blow to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The CMC report also observes that protest against drone attacks has also lost its momentum as no significant protest was observed during last two months after reduction in number of drone attacks during previous three months. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-a political party led by veteran cricketer Imran Khan- had started sit-ins (Dharna) against drone attacks in May and June but during previous two months, the party has not organized any protest in this regard. In Pakistan's National Assembly, the issue of drone attacks was raised by parliamentarians a few months back however, after the reduction in number of drone attacks; the issue is no more of prime attention of the parliamentarians.

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