Friday, 18 February 2011

Drone campaign a casualty of Davis affair

Are poor relations between the CIA and Pakistan's ISI affecting the drone missile campaign in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)? According to statistics compiled by The Long War Journal there have been no strikes in FATA since 23 January. This is the third longest period without any strikes since the campaign was ramped up in August 2008. Although this could be due to poor weather conditions - it is winter in FATA at present - the fact that US security contractor Raymond Davis was arrested on 27 January seems to be a far more plausible explanation.
Whether this is Pakistan's ISI flexing its muscles, much as it has done in the past by blocking the border to Afghanistan and preventing military supplies reaching their destination, or (less likely) a CIA effort to put pressure on the Pakistanis, is unclear. However, tensions between the two organisations have been evident for some time. In December the CIA station chief in Islamabad had to leave the country in a hurry after he was named in a legal case brought by relatives of civilians killed by drone strikes in FATA.
Shortly before that, the head of the ISI, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was accused in a US lawsuit brought in Brooklyn by relatives of an American rabbi and his wife killed at their hostel of being involved in the 2008 attacks on Mumbai. Tit for tat? It certainly looked like it.
The Davis case is likely to make relations between the two countries get worse rather than better in the immediate future. American policy has been to exert maximum diplomatic  pressure to get their man out of jail. So far we have seen statements by the head of the CIA, President Obama, late-night phone calls from Hillary Clinton to President Zardari and a failed mission to Pakistan by Senator John Kerry to get Davis released. In addition, the Pakistan Ambassador to Washington has been threatened with being kicked out of the country and there have also been threats to cut aid to Pakistan.
The only impact all this haranguing appears to be having is to inflame public opinion in Pakistan and to destabilise the PPP government. Already the Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, has been sacked for refusing to kowtow to US pressure; he refused to concede that Davis had full diplomatic status. And extremist political parties such as the Jamat-e-Islami are saying that any attempt to give immunity to Davis will be a disgrace for the country.
Meanwhile Davis has been remanded in custody for another three weeks and the Lahore High Court has now ordered the Punjab police to arrest the driver of the second vehicle involved in the incident, which ran over and killed an innocent bystander. The court has ordered the vehicle to be impounded and put three further American consular staff on the official exit control list .
The stakes in the Davis case are already extremely high and appear to have been exacerbated by the high-handed US approach to the affair, which reeks of nineteenth century gunboat diplomacy. Extra-territoriality, as it was then called, inflamed passions against foreign powers throughout India and China at that time and nothing much has changed.
Update: Jim White at the website firedoglake has more information on Davis' background and his connections to Nevada and Colorado.


Anonymous said...

Very good analysis.

b said...

Yes, it is an interesting "coincident".

I posted on that earlier:

Nick Fielding said...

Thanks for pointing that out. There's a lot more to come on this story.