The United States has targeted and killed hundreds of suspected low-level fighters in Pakistani, Afghan and unidentified extremist groups in Pakistan's tribal areas, despite assurances from the Obama administration that remote controlled drone aircraft strikes are used only against known senior leaders of al Qaeda.
The revelations, reported Wednesday by McClatchy News, come as a leading Islamic scholar says drone strikes in the rugged tribal areas have contributed to the destruction of social structures and the immiseration of local people.
McClatchy reported the contents of top secret U.S. intelligence reports listing targeted killings over a four year period. The killings are authorized under the authority of a Congressional resolution passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks declaring war on al Qaeda and "associated forces."
The intelligence documents reveal that drone strikes were carried out against alleged Afghan insurgents whose organization was not on the U.S. list of terrorist groups at the time of the 9/11 attacks; against suspected members of a Pakistani extremist group that did not exist at the time of 9/11; and against unidentified individuals described as "other militants" and "foreign fighters."
Micah Zenko, a scholar who studies the drone program at the Council on Foreign Relations, a bipartisan foreign policy think tank, told McClatchy their findings indicated the administration is "misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted."
The documents also show that drone operators were not always certain who they were killing -- despite the administration's assurances about the accuracy of the CIA's targeting intelligence and its assertions that civilian casualties have been exceedingly rare -- according to McClatchy.
Also Wednesday, the noted Islamic scholar Akbar Ahmed published his new book "The Thistle And The Drone," in which he critiques U.S. strategy in the war on terror, not just in Pakistan, but from the southern Philippines to Yemen, Somalia, and all the way to Mali and Nigeria.
The militancy in these areas "reflect[s] larger tribal groups which have problems with the central government," he told Voice of America. "All of them reflect areas where there are serious economic problems in terms of their natural resources. And all of them suggest that we are still misreading the relationship that they have with Islam."
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