Kerry promise to limit war and 20 year drone war plans contradict
With the US Secretary of State John Kerry due to arrive next month to present a new proposal to Pakistan to impose “limits” on the drone program, it has emerged that the Pentagon is adamant to continue the drone program for the next two decades, at least. With the State Department and the Pentagon in apparent conflict and the US Senate undertaking its first public hearing over the mechanical death squads operated by the CIA, there are questions over whether Kerry will bring anything new to the table. Nonetheless, it also presents the new Nawaz league government an opportunity to lay out its terms to the US government, and take a stance on what the previous government continued to maintain are “illegal and unapproved” drone strikes.
What would be the Sharif governments response to the new Kerry doctrine? Will the proposal to “limit the attacks to high-value targets of al Qaeda and the Taliban only” be accepted by Pakistan? Will another clandestine deal be brokered to continue the unpopular programme? Whatever be the case, there is much to discuss, with the US keen to discuss its exit strategy from Afghanistan, with the US keen to bring the Afghan Taliban on the negotiating table. But what is Pakistan to make of the statement of the Assistant Defense Secretary before the Senate Armed Services Committee that “this is going to go on for quite a while. I think it’s another 10 to 20 years.” This is as lawmakers in the US grapple with whether to scrap or change the laws that authorised the campaign in the first place. The official also revealed that while “the president must approve each military strike, the Pentagon defines which groups are designated as “associates” that pose a threat to US security.”
With the Pentagon insisting that the drones need to keep buzzing, there is perhaps little that Kerry will bring to the table. With PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif already having gone on record to state that he wants to “strengthen ties with US,” it is thought that the new government may not take such a hard line on the drones, if the US agrees to reduce the number of strikes. The words of one of the US congressmen are worth repeating, ““In other words, could we be in a situation in which Afghanistan is no longer at war against Mullah Omar’s Taliban, but we still are (fighting them in Pakistan)?” Such is the contradiction of the US drone war that two different policy lines are emerging. One led by the State Department, one led by the Pentagon. If the US wishes for Pakistan’s assistance, the State Department will have to assert itself. Hopefully a compromise will be found between the two countries to move forward.