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Richard Holbrooke, the American diplomat and US envoy to the Pakistan and Afghanistan region, coined the term, "AfPak," understanding that the theatre of war extended to both ends of the Durand Line. He understood that it was the eastern side, which served as the backyard for militants' sanctuaries. Geography played a huge part in this arrangement. Battle fought by the US and its allies was focused on taking over the heartlands of Taliban in Afghanistan. The provinces in southeast of Afghanistan are unsuitable for guerrilla warfare, mostly comprising of plains. Adjoining the Hindu Kush with passes to Pakistan's tribal belt offered the perfect sanctuary to retreat and regroup.
The core question is: who makes the call to attack and on whom? According to Dr Gareth Porter, the CIA operations directorate under the programme "allowed directorate to collect the intelligence on potential targets in the Fata, interpret its own intelligence and then make lethal decisions based on that interpretation - all without any outside check on the judgments it was making, even from CIA's own directorate of intelligence. Officials from other intelligence agencies have sought repeatedly to learn more about how the operations directorate was making targeting decisions but were rebuffed, according to the source" (published Al-Jazeera November 3, 2010).
The CIA determines the target based on two methods. The first is dubbed as a "personality strike'. These targets are terrorists whose identity has been unmistakably established through many means available, including human intelligence and visual surveillance. In a "personality strike', the CIA knows exactly who it is hitting. There are no ambiguities involved. The second is the "signature strike'. "In these strikes, the decision to target is based on the behaviour patterns and circumstantial evidence. Positive identification is lacking. The CIA, therefore, does not always know who it is attacking.
According to an absorbing report by NBC News, "Part of the analysis involves crunching data to make connections between the unidentified suspects and other known terrorists and militants. The agency can watch, for example, as an unknown person frequents places, meets individuals, makes phone calls and sends emails, and then match those against other people linked to the same calls, emails and meetings."
Targets killed by drone aircrafts of whose identity cannot be determined fall under the term, "other militants'.
In May 2013, new US guidelines for strikes abroad for targeting non-Americans try to target individuals, rather than groups seemingly suspicious, thereby reducing the number of "signature strikes' were introduced.
The US should look into this policy that has raised anti-American feelings to a level that is unprecedented in Pakistan. The US may like to consider the fact that any democratic leadership is answerable to the masses that elect them - and the democratically-elected leaders of Pakistan will be losing the confidence of those who elected them to office, should they fail to deliver on their basic electoral promise. The sense of dignity and honour of the people must be restored.
If the strikes taper off after 2014, it will clearly be seen as a step to suit US interest and not one that seeks to look after interest of both Pakistan and US. The question here is: how important this perception is among Pakistanis to the American government at the eve of its proposed exit from Afghanistan? My analysis would be; not much.
John Brennan, in a statement defending the USA's use of drones to target and kill suspected militants stated:
"President Obama believes that done carefully, deliberately and responsibly, we can be more transparent and still ensure our nation's security."
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled "A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan". Twitter handle @yasmeen_9