Counter-Terrorism: Is Terrorizing Terrorists A War Crime?


May 24, 2013: Is terrorizing terrorists a war crime? Islamic terrorists hiding out in Waziristan seem to think so. The Pakistan Taliban has been particularly angry at their government for allowing American UAVs to seek out terrorist leaders in Waziristan and kill them with missiles. In response the terrorists have tried several strategies, none of which have completely stopped the loss of their leaders.

At first the terrorists tried to blend in. That didn’t work and the terrorists believed there were spies in the area where they were living. That was somewhat true but their big problem was that the UAV surveillance used predictive analysis software that could measure patterns of activity and predict who was a terrorist and where they would likely go next.

In response to the spy threat the terrorists terrorized the people living around them. The terrorists offered rewards for information on those who might be spies. This turned into a steady source of income for local tribesmen, who tended to turn in a lot of people who were not from their tribe and in some cases were simply passing through. If locals were turned in, and they had powerful enough friends in the area, they could get released but many were beaten badly or killed. Some actually were guilty of providing information to Pakistani intelligence (ISI) or contractors operating informer networks for the CIA. These informant operations were often quite effective, even though the people running them stayed far away and operated via cell phone and couriers. What made the informant network so effective was that informer information could be double checked via UAV surveillance and eavesdropping on phone and Internet traffic from the area. Informants could make a lot of money (a few hundred dollars per useful tip) for providing accurate information and get cut off for lying.

Unable to halt the attacks by going after the “spies” the terrorists threatened to come after senior military and civilian Pakistani leaders if the government did not halt the CIA UAVs operations in Waziristan. Officially, the government has refused to comply. But it appears that the intelligence agency, ISI, has backed down to the Taliban threat. Cooperation between the CIA and ISI was much reduced two years ago and the U.S. has been forced to pull dozens of intelligence operatives out of Pakistan. Since ISI is a largely autonomous part of the Pakistani government, it has resisted the efforts of politicians to bring it under civilian control. Thus American demands that the Pakistani government do something about ISI siding with the terrorists has had little impact. The ISI believes this pro-Taliban policy will protect their leaders from terror attacks. This actually works, most of the time.

Officially, the Pakistani government opposes the UAV attacks, but actually supports them. The CIA does the most damage to the terrorist groups that carry out bombings and assassination attempts (against senior Pakistani officials). The Pakistanis admit that the CIA attacks are the best way to disrupt the Islamic terrorism directed at Pakistani targets. So the politicians have it both ways. They condemn the attacks as a violation of national sovereignty but secretly facilitate the attacks in order to preserve national sovereignty (and prevent the Islamic radicals from taking over).



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