Pakistan Admonishes the U.S.

March 22, 2011

A U.S. drone missile strike in Pakistan last week reportedly killed around 40 people. Many of those killed were alleged terrorists, but many more were described by Pakistan as tribal elders. Pakistan’s government and military responded with a rare admonishment of the United States, and some tribal elders have declared what they call a renewed jihad against the U.S.

Demonstrations erupted around Pakistan the day after the attack. The Pakistani government claims that the meeting was a peaceful one intended to resolve a mining dispute, and that the meeting should not have been targeted.

The U.S. has been conducting a covert program using unmanned drones in Pakistan since 2004. Members of the Pakistani government have publicly condemned the attacks while secretly approving them.

Tribal elders declaring a renewed jihad against the U.S. is unsurprising.

An August 23, 2009 al-Jazeera poll found that 60% of Pakistanis identified the United States as Pakistan’s greatest threat. This is troubling considering that Pakistan’s traditional enemy, India, received only 18% of the vote and the Pakistani Taliban received only 11%.

Anger towards the alliance between the U.S. and Pakistan helped to remove Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in 2008, and this acrimony has continued to be an important factor in Pakistani politics.

The post- Musharraf election season was volatile and targeted Pakistani politicians. Since then, this targeting of state officials has continued, and anyone viewed as a “tool of U.S. influence” is marked for assassination by the Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaeda, and others. This political reality is complicated by the close relationship between segments of the Pakistani military establishment and Taliban-affiliated militants. Many within Pakistan’s military are sympathetic to the Taliban’s cause.

How much longer the Pakistan government will approve of unmanned drones operating within their borders is unknown. As more members of the Pakistani populace turn against the U.S., the easier it will be for insurgents to engineer a government more supportive of their causes and actions.

While the U.S. continues to have a presence in Pakistan, more admonishments from the Pakistani government will likely be coming. The Pakistani army and politicians will be taking a partly pragmatic approach–they are worried about making themselves a target for the populace’s growing anger and the various militant’s growing influence. The Pakistani military insists that it lacks the resources necessary to fight the entire amplitude of insurgent groups inside Pakistan.

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