Hold the phone, anti-war activists. President Obama says that American troops are done with Operation Iraqi Freedom and their episode in Afghanistan is almost over. Now, though, it looks like the US is calling its operation in Pakistan an actual war.
Only one day after American officials announced that US troops executed an alleged Al-Qaeda higher-up with a drone strike in Pakistan, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters on Wednesday that America’s fair-weather ally is indeed serving as a battlefront in the War on Terror.
“We are fighting a war in the FATA, we are fighting a war against terrorism,” Secretary Panetta said this week. Panetta was referring to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a region in northwest Pakistan that is currently the scene of American airstrikes.
Since well before the top-secret raid and execution of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden brought US troops into Pakistan, the American military has tried time and time again to sugarcoat its activities overseas. Despite being an at-one-time top ally of the United States, Pakistani officials have continuously condemned the US over Uncle Sam’s continuing air strikes with unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. Now after years of trying to re-develop those deteriorating ties with Pakistan, the United States’ top military man flatly called his country’s operations in FATA an actual war.
To put it simply, this might not be good news for anyone.
While Panetta’s comment came only a day after the Pentagon confirmed that Al-Qaeda “number-two in command,” Abu Yahya al-Libi, was executed with a drone strike in the FATA region, it also coincides — coincidentally — with a statement made by another former CIA official. Robert Greiner, the one-time head of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center, tells reporters this week that America’s mishandling of drone attacks is creating a safe haven for terrorists.
In a report published this week by the UK’s Guardian, Greiner says that ongoing attacks that target a broad and often unspecific range of targets is causing anti-American sentiments to increase faster than the US can actually combat terror. After the US has increased its air strikes in locales such as Pakistan and Yemen, says Greiner, insurgency has only become more rampant.
Because the Obama administration has gone on the record to say that all military-age men in strike zone are considered combatants, Greiner believes that unrest with the US is adding up at a rate that repeated strikes won’t help.
“We have gone a long way down the road of creating a situation where we are creating more enemies than we are removing from the battlefield. We are already there with regards to Pakistan and Afghanistan,” says Greiner.
“That brings you to a place where young men, who are typically armed, are in the same area and may hold these militants in a certain form of high regard. If you strike them indiscriminately you are running the risk of creating a terrific amount of popular anger. They have tribes and clans and large families. Now all of a sudden you have a big problem … I am very concerned about the creation of a larger terrorist safe haven in Yemen.”