Octopus Mountain was expecting a big name to pop up. A valuable target better be at the other end of ten Hellfire missiles, and that target is being confirmed as Zohaib al-Zahidi, an al-Qaeda operations planner. Evidently not a waste of money on common insurgents.
As the latest in a series of attacks, Thursday’s barrage has emanated the impression of an escalating drone war. But the fact is that drone war escalated in 2008 under George Bush and President Obama merely kept his foot on the throttle. The drones in operations now were launched last spring and over summer.
Again, the CSM points out validly but belatedly, “The strikes may also signify that Washington, growing increasingly impatient with what it says is Pakistan’s lack of cooperation, is taking matters into its own hands.”
When in fact several drone attacks in North Waziristan marked the beginning of Pakistan’s operation into South Waziristan. On review of our informal count, Obama overall has targeted the North more times than the South. November was a quiet month, but only because US intelligence was probably busy tracking targets. December was kill month.
The process will repeat itself until targets run dry, which US officials acknowledge after militants adapted their tactics and stepped up killings on suspected informants. Until then, Reapers and Gorgons won't allow "evil" to rest.
Of course a backlash could develop if America gets too deep in North Waziristan. It's beginning to look like Obama might actually act on Haqqani and Badahur, among others, if Pakistan doesn't. The fundamental problem is that South Waziristan needs a few years of operations all on its own, time Obama doesn't have.
How far he goes, beyond drones and into hot-pursuit or JSOC raids, could permanently determine his relationship with Pakistan. He must be extremely careful not to alienate Pakistan or push it back to its proxies.
Last June, Predators and Reapers displayed their mechanical glory by firing on a funeral for victims of a previous drone strike. The attack ending up killing upwards of 70 people, many of them civilians. Today, another strike in North Waziristan targeted a graveyard where mourners were burying some of the dead from Thursday’s attack.
We aren’t offering sympathy for the TTP, only caution for President Obama to tread carefully while reigning death upon funerals and graveyards. Drones are more popular among locals than often reported, but you never know what tomorrow brings.