July 3, 2011
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is reportedly using airbases in Afghanistan to launch deadly drone attacks on Pakistan despite Islamabad’s warnings against continued unauthorized US air raids on its soil.
The US is pressing ahead with its unsanctioned drone bombing of Pakistan by using an Afghan airbase, as the CIA claims the aerial operations originally launched from a Pakistani airbase have stopped over the past three months, according to a Saturday report by The Washington Post.
The report states that the US stopped drone strikes from the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan in April after a diplomatic row over a CIA operative, Raymond Davis, who killed two Pakistani nationals in Lahore on January 27.
The newspaper added that since then the CIA has carried out its drone attacks on the Pakistani soil from an airbase in Afghanistan.
Ties between Islamabad and Washington have become tense over the attacks, which Pakistan considers as a violation of its sovereignty.
Press TV interviewed Rick Rozoff, manager of Stop NATO in Chicago.
Press TV: These drones, do we know where they are getting their information on what targets to attack?
Rozoff: Do we know how they are obtaining information and how they are targeting people for unmanned aerial vehicle attacks? I have an idea of how the operation works. Your lead-in to our conversation, of course, mentioned that over a thousand people have been killed in the tribal areas in northwest Pakistan last year. The total figures since the US drone war began in Pakistan, starting in 2004, are at least 2,500 people. I mean this is large-scale killing of course.
The so-called pilots who direct the drone attack are based in the United States, and that information is provided via video communication from the theater, from Afghanistan, Pakistan, back to the States where the strikes are ordered. That’s the general mechanism used for the strikes.
I don’t know if it has been noted, but I think it is worth paying attention to the fact that the new defense secretary of the Unites States, Leon Panetta, has come to that post from being the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, which in fact is in charge of the predator drone attacks inside Pakistan, and even though there had been a decrease in those attacks under the former chief military commander of US and NATO forces – International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) – in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, they were intensified under his successor David Petraeus, who is now taking over the directorship of the Central Intelligence Agency.
So, you have a CIA director who really ramped up the drone attacks taking over the Pentagon, and you have a military commander who officiated over or collaborated with the drone attacks taking over the CIA, which runs them. So all indications are that you’re going to see a dramatic escalation of deadly drone attacks inside Pakistan.
Press TV: How is it the US is expanding in Afghanistan, when the Afghan people and President Hamid Karzai has specifically said they want the US soldiers out as soon as possible.
Rozoff: They want ISAF out ASAP, they are correct to say that. As a matter of fact, a couple of weeks ago Afghan President Hamid Karzai stated that the foreign troops in his country, which are an enormous amount, they are up to 152,000 US, NATO and partnership troops in the country, that’s the largest amount of troops ever stationed on Afghan soil incidentally. It’s substantially larger than the Soviet troop presence at its highest, and it is also the largest number of troops from the largest number of countries ever stationed in one warzone, over 50 countries all together with 48 officially what NATO calls Troop Contributing Nations, and other numbers in addition to that. You alluded to airbases like those of Bagram, I would also recall that at Shindand in the western part of Afghanistan.
So, one of the major objective that the United States and NATO have had in invading and occupying Afghanistan, for what will soon be ten years, is to come into possession of the Soviet-built air bases in Afghanistan and upgrade them to police the entire region, which means northward to Central Asia and eastward to the Indian sub-continent and of course west to Iran and the Persian Gulf.
Although frankly I cannot tell you from where the predator drones take off for their deadly mission inside Pakistan, you know the Bagram air base has been expanded to a monumental size in recent years, and it is a clear indication that notwithstanding Afghan President Karzai’s demand that foreign troops leave the country, the US and NATO have no intention of doing that.
Press TV: These drones are considered illegal acts of war by the UN Council for Human Rights and also considered targeted killings, how is it that the Unites States gets away with these inhumane acts?
Rozoff: That’s a very good question. I would say it is simply the moral default of the world that permits them to get away. You know that very loosely phrased UN resolutions permitted the United States and NATO to move into Afghanistan ten years ago in the first place, comparable in many ways to UN Resolutions 1970 and 1973 recently, which have been allowed for what is now a 105-day war against Libya with no end in sight.
The fact is that the major legal adviser to the US State Department, Harold [Hongju] Koh, uses exactly the term that you have just used, “targeted killings” in Pakistan. Dawn News, one of the major English-language news sources in Pakistan, estimated some 18 months ago that last year there were over 1,000 killed, but a year prior to that, of 700 people killed in Pakistan, five of them were so-called al-Qaeda operatives or forces, so there was a 140 to 1 ratio of civilians killed for every targeted terrorist. Yet Harold Koh in the State Department uses the term targeted killing, not targeted assassaination, which in fact it is, because of a law passed in the 1970s in the United States in response to CIA operations prior to that which makes it a violation of the law to conduct targeted assassinations, so they simply changed the name.
Now, if you are somebody in Pakistan whose entire family is wiped out in a Hellfire missile attack, it’s small consolation to be told that it wasn’t a targeted assassination but a targeted killing. And in fact in my opinion this is a gross violation of international and certainly humanitarian law.