Jason Ditz / Anti-War.com & Azhar Masood / Arab News – 2011-05-24 23:18:13
Tribesmen Use US Drone Strikes to Settle Local Scores
As Missiles Continue to Fall, More Doubts About Identities of Victims
Jason Ditz / Anti-War.com
(May 23, 2011) — US Predator drones fired missiles into the North Waziristan Agency town of Machi Khel, killing at least seven people when they destroyed a vehicle. The identities of the victims are unknown, but all were referred to as “suspected militants.”
But where does this suspicion come from? In many cases, from nowhere at all. Amid their desperation to find targets, the US will launch missiles whenever they are tipped off about a suspect. Whoâ€™s doing the “tipping” may surprise you.
In many cases, it is other tribesmen within North Waziristan, who are using the reality of America’s willingness to kill on the flimsiest pretext to eliminate tribal rivals, or just local enemies.
There are times, of course, when these drone killings spark a massive backlash from Pakistani officials, like the time when they hit a tribal jirga of government allies. Many tribesmen in Waziristan donâ€™t have the luxury of ties to the Zardari government, so when US missiles tear through their homes on a tip, there is little incentive to ask questions
Pakistani Tribesmen Settle Scores through US Drones
Azhar Masood / Arab News
ISLAMABAD (May 23, 2011) — While attacks by US unmanned planes in Pakistan have become a contentious issue, tribesmen hired by US drone operators to tip off the CIA on terror targets have been using the opportunity to settle scores with rivals.
They provide false information identifying their rivals as terror targets prompting US drone operators to hit them. Mehsud and Wazir tribes are said to be locked in the tussle and they settle their scores using US drone attacks against each other.
Drones, in many cases, have hit high-value targets. Taleban leader Baitullah Mesud was killed in a drone strike, but on many occasions the information drone operators relied on proved wrong.
Consequently, CIA established its own network on Pakistan-Afghanistan border and gave more credence to ground information provided by locally hired agents both from Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the adjoining provinces in Afghanistan.
For almost a decade US drones have been making relentless efforts to hunt down Al-Qaeda and Taleban militants hiding along the tribal belts in South and North Waziristan. At times they have accurately hit their targets but in many cases civilians have become victims. Earlier, US drone operators used to rely on information provided by sources within the Pakistan Army, but subsequently, they switched to tribesmen who formed a network eavesdropping on suspected terrorists in the tribal belt.
The shift in US strategy came after several errors where drone attacks killed civilians instead of terrorists.
The first error was when drones fired missiles at a school in Dama Dola killing 70 students. Later similar mistakes were committed. Even the field intelligence of the Pakistan Army and the CIA are unaware of the exact casualties and damage to properties caused by drone strikes.
But, with the change in strategy, more innocent people have lost their lives. The latest example was a drone attack on a Jirga (meeting of tribal leaders) in Khyber Agency.
The locally hired operatives who tip off the CIA on terror targets have now started using the opportunity to settle their scores. These CIA agents who are from Mehsud and Wazir tribes identify their rival positions as terror targets prompting US drone operators to hit those targets.
While the ISI and Pakistan Army are watching the new game carefully, reports emanating from Dera Ismail Khan suggest tribes are settling their scores through drone attacks.
Local tribesman and Afghans providing false information to US drone operators is not a new phenomenon.
These agents provide information to US drone operators in exchange for hefty remunerations. According to observers, local tribesmen will continue to keep the CIA busy as long as they get money and are also able to avenge old tribal enmity.
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