Over the weekend, The Sunday Times (UK) reported that thousands of people in Pakistan are being displaced due to attacks by unmanned drones operated by the U.S. military.
The attacks are conducted along the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan and are aimed at “extremists” which can include al-Qaida, Taliban, or internal dissidents within Pakistan. It’s a category without clear definition and the attacks have been frequently been responsible for civilian casualties.
Drone Attacks Causing Massive Displacement
The Sunday Times (UK)–following another attack that killed 13 people including women and children–reports that as many as one million people have fled their homes:
“As many as 1m people have fled their homes in the Tribal Areas to escape attacks by the unmanned spy planes as well as bombings by the Pakistani army. In Bajaur agency entire villages have been flattened by Pakistani troops under growing American pressure to act against Al-Qaeda militants, who have made the area their base.
Kacha Garhi is one of 11 tented camps across Pakistan’s frontier province once used by Afghan refugees and now inhabited by hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis made homeless in their own land.
So far 546,000 have registered as internally displaced people (IDPs) according to figures provided by Rabia Ali, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Maqbool Shah Roghani, administrator for IDPs at the Commission for Afghan Refugees.”
The displacement could lead to a humanitarian crisis, as displaced peoples are unable to return to their homes as attacks continue. According to The Sunday Times (UK), conditions will likely worsen as the camps increase in size and the summer heat creeps in. Food and shelter are already running low.
Beyond the humanitarian situation, the attacks are generating anti-american sentiment that could lead to further instability within the country.
Drone Attacks Supported by the Obama Administration
The Obama administration supports the use of drone attacks and has continued their use following his inauguration earlier this year. Since taking office, the attacks have remained a regular occurrence and they are a critical part of his strategy for Afghanistan.
The administration maintains that the area is a haven for militants and that the attacks are necessary. However, it is engaging in a slight review of the program:
“The administration considers the program a success, and the program isn’t expected to be significantly curtailed. But officials familiar with the review say it could change the pace and size of the program, and make some technical refinements in an effort to hit targets faster. The review seeks to determine under what circumstances drones should be used, the officials say.”
What’s noteworthy about the review is aimed primarily at refining the program, not curtailing it. It’s not interested in exploring the human costs of the policy, examining questions pertaining to international law, or anything like that. Instead it is mainly focused at increasing the “effectiveness.”
Beyond that, various officials within the military establishment in the United States have called for the extension of the attacks into new regions.