The Perils of Predator Drones in Pakistan

As the situation in Pakistan deteriorates, will the Obama administration escalate drone attacks?

The situation in Pakistan is deteriorating by the hour. This nuclear-armed nation already plagued by political and economic turmoil now faces a massive humanitarian crisis, as 500,000 people flee the Swat valley in the face of armed conflict between Pakistani authorities and Taliban extremists who have taken control. As President Obama meets with Pakistani President Asif Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai today, the question becomes what the U.S. can do to prevent all-out war in Pakistan.

An article in The New York Times yesterday presented three potential strategies for the Obama administration to pursue in the coming weeks: 1) hasten the long-term strategy of retraining the Pakistani army to fight the counterinsurgency while upping nation-building efforts; 2) rely on more Predator drone strikes and covert ground attacks; and 3) make sure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure from the extremist threat. While the Obama administration may have its back against the wall, authorizing more Predator drone attacks is a disastrous option that must be avoided at all cost.

As David Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency expert who designed Gen. Petraeus's Iraqi surge, recently told the House Armed Services Committee, "We need to call off the drones." This covert plan, first approved by Bush (and continued by Obama) to skirt Pakistan's refusal to allow U.S. troops into the country, uses unmanned aerial drones remotely controlled by the CIA to hunt down suspected terrorists and insurgents. But as Kilcullen claimed, it's backfiring, prompting more Taliban extremists to take up arms against the U.S.-backed Pakistani government and driving them deeper into the country.

ZP Heller is the editorial director of Brave New Films. He has written for The American Prospect, AlterNet, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Huffington Post, covering everything from politics to pop culture.