Predator strikes in Pakistan

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Audio Transcript:

At least four suspected militants were killed when a US drone fired two missiles in Pakistan's North Waziristan region, security officials said. The area is a known haven for al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but Pakistan has publicly criticized drone attacks, saying they fuel support for the militants. Marco Werman talks with Ahmed Rashid, the author of many books about Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia.

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. In Pakistan today, two alleged militants were killed in a missile attack, believed to have come from remotely operated U.S. drones. The attack took place in one of Pakistan's tribal areas. It's close to another lawless region, South Waziristan, where Pakistani forces are engaged in an offensive against the Taliban and other groups. The Pakistani military announced today that in the past twenty four hours, government troops have killed twenty eight suspected militants. Ahmed Rashid joins me now, he's the author of many books about Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia and when we hear that unmanned U.S. drones have killed two suspected militants and the Pakistani military has killed twenty eight others, do you think oh, this offensive against the militants is really working or do you feel it's just window dressing?

AHMED RASHID: First of all, we really don't know. There's no independent analysis, we only know what the military tells us. There's no press, no aid agencies there and not only that, but all the phone lines have been shut down. The mobile phones have been shut down so we really don't know but I think there's no doubt, that I mean the last two, three weeks in this offensive in South Waziristan, the military has, it's aiming to take three of these strategic towns where the militants are housed, where a lot of their training camps and logistic base is and where they were training suicide bombers and housing explosives. Now it seems that Leddow, which is one of these towns, has fallen after very intense street fighting and the army is now pursuing them in two other towns but the real question is winter is literally upon us and it's very cold already there and it's going to snow very soon and you know, is the army going to continue or is the army just going to declare victory and walk out once winter starts?

WERMAN: So no independent confirmation of these attacks on militants. When news like this is announced, do you think the offensive in South Waziristan starts to look more like proving to the Obama Administration that Pakistan is serious about rooting out militants or is it truly about responding to a domestic Pakistani terrorist threat?

RASHID: Well, I think the first aim is to respond to the Pakistani domestic terrorist threat. I mean the fact is that these terrorists have attacked the army headquarters in Ravo Pindi. They've killed army officers in Islamabad. They have targeted the army and of course, civilians, some three hundred people have been killed in October alone, on account of suicide bombings carried out by these militants so I mean the army has to be seen to be responding to a growing public demand that this militancy gets wiped out. I think that's the first thing. T he second thing regarding the Obama Administration, certainly they you know, this has cooled down some of the doubts that the U.S. military may have had about Pakistan, but the very serious doubts still remains and that is that the Pakistan military is not touching those areas where the Afghan Taliban are based and it's those Afghan Taliban who are crossing the border into Afghanistan and then killing NATO and American forces and that's where the missiles are landing. The U.S. is using drones to find missiles into North Waziristan which is where the Afghan Taliban are based and where the Pakistan army is not carrying out any operation.

WERMAN: And why is the army not going after those Afghan Taliban?

RASHID: Well, it's a long story but it never has gone after the Afghan Taliban and essentially a longstanding presumption I think now by the Americans and raised by Hillary Clinton when she was in Pakistan just a few days ago was that there seems to be a nod and a wink as far as the Afghan Taliban are concerned. They can stay where they are and they won't get harassed by the Pakistani's. As long as they do their fighting against the Americans in Afghanistan. And of course this is something that Ms. Clinton has raised that Admiral Mullen, the chairman of Joint Chiefs has raised. It remains a very big contradiction between the Pakistani's and the Americans. The Pakistani's will tell you, well our first target of the Pakistani Taliban, we're doing what we can but this record of not touching the Afghan Taliban goes back to 2002. The Taliban have been able to reorganize themselves in Pakistan because they are not fearing anything from the Pakistani military.

WERMAN: Finally, Ahmed Rashid, maybe you can just tell us how important is this military offensive for Pakistan's own stability?

RASHID: You know, this is a very critical time. I mean you've got the American president Obama having to make his decisions about Afghanistan, whether to send more troops or not. That's something the Pakistani government and army is watching very closely. All the regional countries are watching very closely and that's what the Taliban are watching very closely. The Taliban believe both in Afghanistan and to some extent in Pakistan, that they're on the cusp of some kind of victory. The Americans will eventually withdraw and all we have to do is just sit out the Americans and they turn the Americans in a year or two will withdraw and we just have to keep our powder dry and keep the pressure on and they will all pull out. You know, there's very little happening internationally which is really refuting this point of view of the Taliban.

WERMAN: Pakistani journalist, Ahmed Rashid. His latest book is called ?Descent into Chaos, United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.? Ahmed Rashid, thank you for speaking with us.

RASHID: Thank you.