Students at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad debate their concerns over US presence in the region


Story Transcript

UNIDENTIFIED: I’m from that area which is mostly affected by the terrorists and terrorism. I would like to say here that, you know, I think drones attacks in these areas are beneficial. Why I say that, you know, it’s good: because when you go there, because I’m from there and I know the situation there, you go there and you see that, you know, there is a lot of—you know, you can’t even live there.

SEAN NEVINS: This is Sean Nevins reporting from Pakistan. The man in the video is a student at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. He’s from a tribal area which is heavily affected by militant extremism, Pakistan military operations, and American drone attacks. According to the New America Foundation, in 2009, under President Barack Obama, 51 drone strikes occurred in the tribal areas of Pakistan, and up to 41 already in 2010. Since 2004, it is estimated that over 1,000 people have been killed in drone strikes, including militants and civilians alike. Civilian deaths, up to 120 in 2009 alone, and the fact that drone strikes are seen by the majority of Pakistanis as an encroachment on the nation’s sovereignty make drone strikes extremely controversial. That’s why it was surprising to find that, while interviewing students from the tribal areas of NWFP and FATA, many supported the drone attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED, FROM BALOCHISTAN: If you talk to the tribal people, they will not oppose the drone attacks, because they are not creating a collateral damage; they are just hitting their targets.

UNIDENTIFIED, FROM SOUTH WAZIRISTAN: And we want the drone attack [to] occur more and more. But the thing is that development, regional development, should be with that.

ADNAN AFRIDI, FROM KHYBER AGENCY: Adnan Afridi from FATA, Khyber Agency. Basically, I’m in favor of the drone attacks because it just only killed the extremists and terrorists.

NEVINS: Quaid-i-Azam University, where this footage was filmed, is a conservative school located on the outskirts of Islamabad and attracts students from all over the country. While the majority of those students I spoke with from FATA—the most heavily hit area by drone strikes—supported the attacks, they in no way represented a consensus. Students were also quick to pick up on the interrelationship between the $1.5 billion in annual US aid and the drone attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED, FROM LAKKI: Well, all over, the Pakistani citizens are seeing US as its enemy. So it should—I think it should, first of all, two things, which is stop drone attacks, and the US should see where the aid is going towards, because it’s not going in those areas which are mostly affected by these attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED, FROM ISLAMABAD: —and I’m from Islamabad. I think that basically whenever a state or imperial state gives a country aid, it’s not because they want their betterment; it’s because they want to influence that state.

NEVINS: According to Jeffrey Addicott, a retired US Army colonel and former legal advisor to the US Special Forces, it is President Obama who is pushing the drone program, not the CIA. Apparently, the president likes the program because it gives clear results that can be easily measured as evidence of the US’s determination to thwart al-Qaeda and other militant groups. Recently, however, it has come to light that many CIA officials intimately involved with the drone strikes in Pakistan oppose the program because it is used to help recruit militants and simply isn’t working. In fact, 2009 saw a record high of 87 suicide attacks, killing 1,300 people and wounding over 3,600 more. Indeed, the New America Foundation, a think tank based in Washington, DC, has calculated that drone strikes have a civilian fatality rate of 32 percent and are responsible for creating the intense anti-American atmosphere within Pakistan.

UNIDENTIFIED, FROM NOWSHERA: I think this has created bitterness in our society that has created a great resistance in our society and that has—this has created anti-Americanism in this part of the world. And I think that the United States of America should think over this policy of having two-pronged policy. One prong is very peaceful or something economic for the benefits of the people, and the other side is very much destructive and catastrophic. So I think I’m not in favor of the drone and aid that is a collective policy used by the USSOCOM [US Special Operations Command].

NEVINS: Recently the UN has reported that drone strikes in Pakistan violate international humanitarian law and human rights law. US officials, however, have countered these claims by emphasizing the Pakistani government’s acquiescence in the drone program.

End of Transcript

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