In an unusual briefing, a top Pakistani general leading troops in the volatile North Waziristan region has acknowledged the effectiveness of the American drone strikes against foreign militants…
Publicly, the Pakistani government and the powerful military condemn the drone strikes, though privately they acknowledge their utility. It is rare for civilian or military officials to give any nod to the effectiveness of the campaign, and the controversy surrounding the drone strikes has become a staple of the national debate. Opposition political parties and Islamists call the drone attacks a violation of the country’s sovereignty and question their legality.
Dawn, considered the country’s leading English-language daily, quoted Maj. Gen. Mehmood Ghayur of the army’s Seventh division in North Waziristan, as saying that “myths and rumors about U.S. Predator strikes and the casualty figures are many, but it’s a reality that many of those being killed in these strikes are hardcore elements, a sizable number of them foreigners.”
The general was briefing a group of local Peshawar-based journalists on a rare trip to Miram Shah, the main city in North Waziristan.
According to details listed in the general’s briefing and quoted by Dawn, militants of several nationalities have been singled out in drone attacks. The diverse nationalities of the militants show the extent to which Pakistan’s tribal regions straddling the border with Afghanistan have been infiltrated by foreign fighters, mostly affiliated with Al Qaeda.
This is the second time in recent memory that statements about the military usefulness of drone strikes, the range of extra-national terrorist forces based in tribal areas, the strength of Al Qaeda in frontier regions of Pakistan has been acknowledged. At least by voices inside Pakistan.
I’m not certain there is as much clarity inside the Washington Beltway.