Wednesday, 23 May 2018
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Since the 29th June the United States has carried out four unmanned airstrikes:

July 10th: The United States' first unmanned airstrike in two weeks was against a compound in the village of Sheerani Mada Khel near Miramshah, North Waziristan. Pakistani officials reported that between 10 and 14 'militants' were killed in the strike. However at this time none were believed to be senior al Qaeda or Taliban figures.

July 24th: Several missiles were fired during an unmanned strike against a hideout used by the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the Angora Adda area of South Waziristan. The strike killed 16 Taliban 'militants,' however none were deemed senior operatives.

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Often unreported by the Western media, strikes against suspected terrorist sites in Pakistan from unmanned aerial vehicles are a regular occurrence. But this is not a cost-free option, as the suicide bombing that killed 7 CIA operatives showed - and that incident can be linked directly back to networks hit repeatedly in Pakistan.

Many of the strikes are chronicled by our friends at The Long War Journal. Their analysis shows that casualty levels have risen drastically over the last 3 years: 73 Taliban/ Al Qaeda in 2007; 286 Taliban/Al Qaeda and 31 civilians in 2008; 404 Taliban/ Al Qaeda and 43 civilians up to the end of September. Almost all of these took place in the tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan.

The purpose of these strikes (many of which are unacknowledged or revealed in Pakistan when "civilians" are killed) is to disrupt Al Qaeda networks and Taliban operations in Afghanistan, plus Pakistani Taliban leaders who threaten that state. It should also be noted that more than 70% of US and NATO supplies pass through Pakistan's north-west provinces.

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By Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, U K Defence Forum

On the 13th January the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information request asking the US government to disclose the legal basis for the use of predator drones to conduct 'targeted killings.' From the very outset of the war on terror US administrations have used unmanned drones to target and kill terrorists. More recently, use of unmanned drones has expanded within Pakistan. As a result of the expansion of drone activities the ACLU argues that the American public has a right to know whether the programme is compliant with international law. The ACLU is also keen to establish whether the programme seeks to minimise the number of civilian casualties.

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The Caucasus in transition
Part One - Georgia: The elephant in the room
By David Hoghton-Carter, UK Defence Forum Research Associate

Last week, we saw an event which may mark a watershed in the history of the Caucasus. Two female suicide bombers walked into Moscow underground stations, one a matter of yards from FSB headquarters, and detonated devices which together have killed more than thirty people. Within hours, Vladimir Putin had sworn to "destroy" those responsible, believed to be an Islamic terror group which wants to create a Muslim Caliphate out of three Russian states, Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

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The Caucasus in transition
Part Two - The Terrible Triad: religion, ethnicity and nationalism
By David Hoghton-Carter, UK Defence Forum Research Associate

Yesterday, I introduced our three-part "Caucasus in transition" series by examining Georgia and the need for a new approach to it from both Russia and the USA.

The Georgia Factor is a symptom of a larger problem, however. The Caucasus have long been dominated by a complex web of interlinking religious, ethnic and nationalistic grudges between competing power groups. For Russia, this is not an international issue of far-flung terrorist bases, this a domestic one of Islamist militancy right on the doorstep and deeply-held national allegiances.

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The Caucasus in transition
Part Three - The Great Game
by David Hoghton-Carter, UK Defence Forum Research Associate

Today, in this concluding part of our "Caucasus in transition series", we move on from examining the complex web of religious, ethnic and nationalistic grudges which marks out the Caucasus to considering how Russia and the other great powers could act to mitigate the risk of future conflict. As considered here on Viewpoints during March, Russia is developing a new foreign policy agenda for a rapidly-evolving future. The role of the 'West' in this whole mess is itself complex. We see the competing demands of autonomous national foreign policy coming out of USA and Britain, in addition to NATO policy, EU policy and a web of strategic and economic multilateral relationships.

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Since the 1st February the United States have carried out three airstrikes. The targets were:

2nd February Five unmanned US strike aircraft are reported to have fired 18 missiles at a camp and vehicles in the village of Datta Khel, North Waziristan. According to the Long War Journal this is the largest recorded US airstrike in Pakistan. This also indicates that top al Qaida, Taliban or Haqqani leaders may have been targeted. Seventeen terrorists were reported killed in the attack. However none of the reported casualties have been al Qaida or Taliban leaders.

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By Barbara Demick.

Published by Granta (ISBN 978-1-84708-141-4)

Reviewed by Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

Barbara Demick's coverage of the war in Sarajevo won the Robert F. Kennedy award and was also shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize. In 2001 she became correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, covering both North and South Korea. As in common with many journalists, it proved difficult for Demick to visit the North. When she eventually gained access reporting was severely limited by the regime's employment of minder's to guide journalists on pre-planned tours. There was never any conversation with 'ordinary' North Korean citizens. Yet through contact with defectors to the South, Demick was able to paint a picture of life in North Korea. Just as the title of the book suggests, life in the last remaining bona fide Communist state is nothing much to envy.

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Since the 17th February the United States have carried out eight airstrikes. The targets were:

February 17th - A Predator attack that targeting a Taliban compound in the village of Tapi near Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. The strike killed Sheikh Mansoor, a key al Qaida military leader based in North Waziristan. Pakistani news sources reported that the airstrike left a number of other important militants dead

February 18th An unmanned US Predator fired two missiles at a compound and a vehicle in Danda Darpa Khel just outside of Miramshah, North Waziristan. Four Haqqani Network fighters were initially reported killed, including Mohammed Haqqani, one of twelve sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani.

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Since the 19th March the United States have carried out five unmanned airstrikes. The targets were:

March 21st: Unmanned Predators and Reapers struck a compound in the village of Inzar, North Waziristan. The targeted compound belonged to a relative of a militant commander. Initial reports indicated that four terrorists were killed. However none of these were reported to be senior al Qaida or Taliban leaders. The Taliban responded to the attacks by killing four "U.S. spies." A note found attached to the bodies stated that:

"Spies are spies, and they will come to the same fate as these men. Do not spy for America."

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