Friday, January 23, 2009
Obama's High-Tech Warfare in Pakistan
Nine people are reported killed in the first CIA predator attack in North Waziristan since President Obama took office on Tuesday. There was another strike in South Waziristan but there have been no reports of casualties yet.
These strikes came shortly after Obama met his advisers, including General David Patraeus right after the general's return from a visit to Pakistan. It's the clearest indication yet that Obama will continue the Bush policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan at least in the immediate future. It also indicates that Pakistani leadership is willing to tolerate these attacks, in spite of strong Pakistani public opinion against it.
There were thirty reported US drone attacks in Pakistan in 2008. Given the inauspicious start of the Obama presidency with two strikes in two days, it is likely that the number of attacks will continue to grow and severely test the patience of Pakistani leadership and its people.
The ferocity of the Taliban fighters has already stretched the Afghan war into its eighth year, making it the second longest war in the American history. With the US decision to send another 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, it seems more and more likely that the Obama presidency will be defined by the Afghan war in the same way that the LBJ presidency was defined by America's deepening involvement in the Vietnam war engulfing the entire Indochina region. In some ways, the Obama challenge is much more difficult because of the dire economic situation that America is facing today. Naturally, there is focus on a more cost-effective approach with fewer American casualties in the US military to fight and win the Afghan war.
Obama's interest in high technology extends beyond his Blackberry and his use of online social networking. In addition to more US and NATO troops, Obama likes the fact that the US has reportedly built as many as 5000 predator drones and other robots that can be increasingly used in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. The US Army is also actively recruiting more video-game-savvy drone pilots and robot operators, some of them in their late teens and early twenties for this high-tech warfare. The recently opened Army Experience Center in Philadelphia is a fitting counterpart to the retail experience: 14,500 square feet of mostly shoot-’em-up video games and three full-scale simulators, including an AH-64 Apache Longbow helicopter, an armed Humvee and a Black Hawk copter with M4 carbine assault rifles. For those who want to take the experience deeper, the center has 22 recruiters, according to a report in the New York Times.
In his latest book titled "Wired for War", author P.W. Singer talks about a 19-year-old high-school dropout who is considered one of the best predator pilots in the US Army. This pilot was reportedly a champion video-gamer before being recruited. It is amazing that this young man is considered better as a drone pilot than the much better educated and battle-hardened US Air Force pilots. He has now been elevated to an instructor.
Here's what P.W. Singer says about the US armed drones:
Each Predator costs just under $4.5 million, which sounds like a lot until you compare it to the costs of other military aircraft. Indeed, for the price of one new F-35, the Pentagon’s next-generation manned fighter jet (which hasn’t even taken flight yet), you can buy 30 Predators. More important, the low price and lack of a human pilot mean that the Predator can be used for missions in which there is a high risk of being shot down, such as traveling low and slow over enemy territory. Predators originally were designed for reconnaissance and surveillance, but now some are armed with laser-guided Hellfire missiles. In addition to its deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Predator, along with its larger, more heavily armed sibling, the Reaper, has been used with increasing frequency to attack suspected terrorists in Pakistan. According to news media reports, the drones are carrying out cross-border strikes at the rate of one every other day, operations that the Pakistani prime minister describes as the biggest point of contention between his country and the United States.
High-tech or low-tech, all indications are that the US war in Afghanistan and Pakistan will escalate and intensify into a regional war under President Obama. I hear the echoes of Indo-China in the words and actions of Obama in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Here's a video clip of Obama selling the Afghan War to the Europeans:
Can Obama Win the Afghan War?
21st Century High-Tech Warfare
Obama's Kashmir Focus