Killing of top Al Qaeda militant Ilyas Kashmiri only a small US victory
Efforts to chip away at the most wanted list and chase militants from one Afghanistan-Pakistan border region to the next come with high costs and are not yet putting militant outfits out of business, say experts.
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In late spring, riding a wave of anti-US sentiment over a captured CIA agent, Pakistan’s military was indicating quietly to reporters that a North Waziristan offensive was not in the cards. However, the US raid to kill Osama bin Laden and the terrorist infiltration of a naval base in Karachi have shaken popular faith in the military’s handling of national security.Skip to next paragraph
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With US pressure mounting and less street support for resistance to it, the Pakistani military over the past week has indicated openness to a limited offensive on North Waziristan and agreed to joint intelligence operations with the US against five most-wanted militants, including Ilyas Kashmiri.
Gul rattles off a list of slain terror chiefs including Osama bin Laden and Baitullah Mehsud whose deaths did not deter their followers from fresh attacks. He likens it do the death of a father in a family. “If he’s old, and his kids are grown up, they will feel a vacuum with his death certainly, but the family will go on.”
'Mental health crisis'
Meanwhile, the long conflict is leaving scars.
The people in Pakistan’s northwest frontier are experiencing a “mental health crisis,” says Dr. Khalid Mufti, a psychiatrist based for decades in Peshawar. Drawing on a survey of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province last month, he says 70 percent of the population shows signs of psychiatric stress.
Some of that is due to poverty, some from the trauma of terrorist attacks and military strikes. He says the drones are recurring delusion among some patients: “Look, the drones are coming again!”
While many of the drones are precise, they still can ruin innocent lives. Ajab Noor, a 10-year-old boy, lost his father to a 2008 drone attack. He says his father hitched a ride home from a trip to sell his car when a drone destroyed the vehicle he was in.
“They were not fighters who were along with my father, they were civilians,” he says. “After that, I couldn’t continue school because we were now poor.”
Many locals do support drone attacks
But many in northwestern Pakistan do support the drones, seeing them as the only serious challenge to militants. There’s deep skepticism here that the military operations are a serious effort to crush the militants.