A veteran journalist on the topic interviews the Taliban, and recalls his own history, to make sense of how drone warfare is impacting their operations. Tidbits from the report include:
- The Taliban (and al-Qaeda) have changed the behaviour, and no longer congregate in big groups or use electronic devices.
- The ‘official’ reporting of drone strikes is unreliabl, as too is local (Taliban) reporting which can deliberately under-report for propaganda purposes.
- Among Waziristan’s residents, “I will drone you” has now entered the vocabulary of day-to-day conversation as a morbid joke.
- As the strikes have continued, they have given rise to a narrative that explains away Pakistan’s worsening radicalization and extremist violence as a product of the drones.In reality, the country’s worsening anti-Americanism is driven more by the portrayal of the drones in the Pakistani media, which paints them as a scourge targeting innocent civilians, than by the drones themselves. Few Pakistanis have actually visited the tribal areas or even know much about them.
- In March of last year, Pakistani Maj. Gen. Ghayur Mehmood, the commander in North Waziristan, appeared before reporters in Miram Shah and told them, “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 hard-core elements, a sizable number of them foreigners. Yes, there are a few civilian casualties in such precision strikes, but a majority of those eliminated are terrorists, including foreign terrorist elements.”
- Residents of the tribal areas are conflicted about the strikes. Many favor the drone strikes over the alternatives, such as military operations or less selective bombardments by Pakistani bombers and helicopter gunships.