Obama and Kerry struck a deal with the Afghani government to keep US troops in Afghanistan until sometime beyond 2014 last month. There is a slight possibility that the deal won’t actually go through, but it’s looking like it probably will. It seems like a good idea for us to maintain a small ground presence in Afghanistan, but the article cited above indicates that we’ll probably keep roughly 8000 troops in the country, which seems a bit excessive. Luckily the government of Afghanistan seems largely okay with the action, so it shouldn’t be detrimental to our relationship with the country’s government. And it seems like we’ll be using our forces to mostly fend off Al Qaeda and train the Afghani National Forces, which hopefully means the troops will be focused on more defensive actions than offensive actions. While it seems like 8000 troops is a bit excessive, it seems like an overall good thing for the US to keep some troops in Afghanistan for the next year.
The Pakistani government is largely not okay with US drone strikes in their country, as is logical for any country who’s sovereignty is being violated by another country. Especially considering that the United States continues to kill numerous, innocent, Pakistani civilians with these strikes, being outraged makes a lot of sense for the Pakistani government. Even Sharif, the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, who very much so wants to maintain good ties with the US and is willing to help out with the Afghanistan peace processes is pretty ticked off at the way we conduct drone strikes. The friction in the relationship certainly can’t be good, and could only be detrimental to the relationship and our ability to conduct peaceful affairs with Pakistan and other states in the Middle East/South Asia. Hopefully the United States will come to their senses soon and realize that constraining the drone program is a good idea. When even the Taliban is mocking us for our drone policy, it’s time to change things.
A large portion of our drone program is conducted in Pakistan, where strikes are carried out very frequently. The problem is that these frequent drone strikes are largely causing the country to become destabilized. Their usage is incredibly controversial (and widely hated) by the people and the government of Pakistan, and there is often backlash among the population. Their usage causes people to join terrorist organizations to get back at the US for attacks, and continues to prevent relations between America and Pakistan from becoming powerful. Relations between the two countries would certainly be helpful at stopping other destabilizing factors in the Middle East and ensuring that Pakistan stays a stable enough state so that their nuclear weapons don’t fall into the hands of terrorists. Thus, it’s time that the United States was held more accountable for drone strikes and restrained them in Pakistan.
One of the most problematic factors of our current drone program is that it results in blowback terrorism, which is the idea of revenge killings– terrorists commit acts of terror against the United States because of drone strikes. This operates under the same logic of previous terrorist attacks, in which the justification for the attacks were previous US policies. The first Iraq war is an excellent example of this– there were several attacks that were accredited to that intervention.
The most prominent example of this know is Faisal Shahzad, who was incarcerated for committing the Times Square Bombing. He said “I’m going to plead guilty a hundred times over because until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes … we will be attacking the U.S” (my emphasis). This is obviously problematic, because it means that terrorist attacks will continue as long as we continue to do drone strikes.