· CIA pays tribesmen to plant devices that guide drones to Al Qaeda, Taliban shelters
LAHORE: The CIA is giving Pakistani tribesmen electronic transmitters to help it target and kill Al Qaeda leaders, a tactic it suggests Pakistani military can also use.
Over the last 18 months, US officials claim, nine of the top 20 Al Qaeda figures have been killed in drone strikes. That success is reportedly in part thanks to the ‘chips’ that have become a source of fear.
“Everyone is talking about it,” said Taj Muhammad Wazir. “People are scared that if a pathrai [chip] comes into your house, a drone will attack it.” CIA pays tribesmen to plant the electronic devices at Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders’ shelters. Guided by the signal from the chip, a drone destroys the building with a salvo of missiles.
According to newspaper estimates, the campaign approved by President Barack Obama, has killed 700 people since 2006 all except 14 of them unintended victims.
Last month the Taliban issued a video confession by Habibur Rehman, 19, who said he was paid Rs 20,000 to drop microchips hidden in a cigarette wrapper at the home of a target. He said his handler promised more money if the strike was successful, and protection if he was caught. A former CIA officer who served in Waziristan in 2006 said that small American teams comprising CIA agents, radio experts and special forces soldiers are stationed inside Pakistani military bases across the tribal belt. From there, the CIA recruits a network of informers – known as “cut-outs” – to help identify targets. In most cases they are poor local men. Support for the drone strikes is strongest among security officials in the NWFP. “They are very precise, very effective, and the Taliban and Al Qaeda dread them,” said the provincial police chief, Malik Naveed Khan. The NWFP authorities are currently preparing for up to 500,000 more internally displaced persons to be forced to flee by a South Waziristan operation.