The windows overlooking the airfield were smoked and double glazed. On the runway aircraft landed and took off without making a sound. This is how they tried to win, Jerry thought: from inside sound-proof rooms, through smoked glass, using machines at arm’s length. This is how they lost.
—John Le Carre, The Honourable Schoolboy
The government of Pakistan has refused the US military permission to expand its drone show into Baluchistan province. It is believed that this is where the Afghan Taliban leadership—including the fabled Mullah Omar—today gathers, in and around the densely populated city of Quetta.
Though the drone blunderbuss is now extinguishing the lives of 98 innocents for every 2 jihadis killed, US knuckleheads apparently thought it a good idea to start sending the things over an area occupied by nearly a million civilians.
Pakistan said forget it. It has instead offered to permit an increased CIA presence in the region, with US Clouseaus yoked to teams of agents from the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service. That should work out well, since it is the ISI that protects and promotes the Taliban; the ISI has a history of bamboozling the CIA into lending its agents and equipment to operations that facilitate the ISI’s own, very selfish ends. “They are so innocent,” a Pakistani official has said fondly of US spooks.
Meanwhile, out in the badlands of North Waziristan, a semi-autonomous “tribal region” where the US is tacitly permitted by the Pakistani government to fly drones, those Al Qaeda homeboys known as the Haqqani are getting out of the way of the aircraft by elbowing into the neighboring high-mountain region of Kurram.
Flying drones over Kurram is apparently not an option. “It would mean big trouble between the two countries,” says Pakistani journalist/analyst Imtiaz Gul. “It would amount to a lot of friction.”
The Haqqani are bad dudes: they brought suicide bombings to Afghanistan, nearly succeeded in assassinating Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2008, and last May took on the heavily fortified Bagram airfield near Kabul. And like the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani are friends and fellows of the ISI, which has allowed the Haqqani to use North Waziristan, and “regards the Haqqani group as a valuable hedge against Indian influence in a post-U.S. Afghanistan” (see: India again).
The Pakistani military has long promised to move into North Waziristan to sweep out such riffraff, and has even pocketed a $2 billion bribe from the US to do so. But, like General Tommy Franks in Operation Iraqi Fiefdom, it has insisted on the right to “close with and engage the enemy at a time and place of our choosing.”
“I think they’ll start the operation,” opines tribal-region analyst Khadim Hussain, “once every single fighter has moved out of North Waziristan and into Kurram.”