According to a report in the Washington Post last Friday the Americans have tabled a request to our government that they be allowed to extend the range of their drone strikes to cover areas around Quetta. We are reported to have refused. There have been over 40 drone strikes since September 3 – which extrapolates to one every 1.95 days. If this rate of strike were continued for a year we would be seeing almost 190 strikes over the 365 days. A total of 220 people are reportedly killed in those 40 strikes, an average of 5.5 people per strike. Again extrapolating that to a year in which there were a projected 190 strikes we may expect a casualty figure of people killed – not counting those who feature as collateral damage and sit in wheelchairs or are blind or limbless – of 1,045. The figures for actual drone strikes are accurate; the figures for the dead are to a large degree conjectural and almost certainly an underestimate. And nobody counts the wounded, least of all the Americans.
The WP report says that instead of agreeing to more strikes we will allow instead an expanded CIA presence in Quetta; which answers the question – ‘Is there a CIA outstation in Quetta?” The answer being yes there is, and it is about to get bigger. Just how many Americans there are in Pakistan who are engaged in some form of intelligence gathering, covert operations, ‘security’ work or any other non-aid or diplomatic task – is a wide open question. We must assume that there are Americans legitimately here – they cooperate with our forces on intelligence gathering and target selection, we are not purely passive partners in the relationship. Many of the drones that strike here and there take off and land in Pakistan. They will need American personnel to refuel, service and arm these aircraft, this is not a job for local contractors. They will operate from a base that will have a heavily guarded perimeter and those guards are unlikely to be drawn from our own forces. The list goes on and on. The request for an extension of drone activity will be intelligence driven – the Americans are not seeking to operate around Quetta just for the fun of it, they will have targets in mind if not directly in their sight. We may be setting limits to American activity, but the Americans are daily pushing the envelope. How long, we wonder, before they decide that it is time for a new envelope – Thenews