The unpopularity of US drone strikes has been exaggerated
Pakistani politicians fume and rant against US unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strikes against al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in the tribal areas in Pakistan’s North-west. The outrage is a charade, at least for the politicians in government, because some of the UAVs are operating out air bases in Pakistan, ostensibly with the knowledge and permission of the Pakistani government.
But a survey of the affected populations in the tribal areas, conducted by the Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy (AIRRA), a local think-tank, found that the people do not quite share the same level of outrage.
The popular notion outside the Pakhtun belt that a large majority of the local population supports the Taliban movement lacks substance. The notion that anti-Americanism in the region has not increased due to drone attacks is rejected. The study supports the notion that a large majority of the people in the Pakhtun belt wants to be incorporated with the state and wants to integrate with the rest of the world.
—Do you see drone attacks bringing about fear and terror in the common people? (Yes 45%, No 55%)
—Do you think the drones are accurate in their strikes? (Yes 52%, No 48%)
—Do you think anti-American feelings in the area increased due to drone attacks recently? (Yes 42%, No 58%)
—Should Pakistan military carry out targeted strikes at the militant organisations? (Yes 70%, No 30%)
—Do the militant organisations get damaged due to drone attacks?
(Yes 60%, No 40%)[Farhat Taj/The News]
AIRRA claims that it “has been envisioned to remain independent, both ideologically and organizationally”. If the results any reflection of this vision, then they should deflate the displays of righteousness that Pakistani politicians put up, and indeed, weaken their hand while negotiating with their US counterparts.