U.S.-led drone war is self-defeating

For the United States there are few more strategically important places today than the tribal region of Pakistan, headquarters of al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, and also home to a syndicate of other militant jihadist groups from across Asia. It is where Faisal Shahzad, who tried to blow up a car bomb in Times ...

MOHAMMAD MALIK/AFP/Getty Images
MOHAMMAD MALIK/AFP/Getty Images
MOHAMMAD MALIK/AFP/Getty Images

For the United States there are few more strategically important places today than the tribal region of Pakistan, headquarters of al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, and also home to a syndicate of other militant jihadist groups from across Asia.

It is where Faisal Shahzad, who tried to blow up a car bomb in Times Square in May, was trained. So was Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-American who plotted to explode bombs on Manhattan's subways in 2009. It is also the source of a good deal of the violence that is wracking neighboring Afghanistan.

Yet this critical region is one of the most opaque places in the world; international journalists and aid organizations rarely venture there, there's little open dialogue because, until last year, most political parties were banned from operating there. As a result, the views of its inhabitants have largely been a mystery.

For the United States there are few more strategically important places today than the tribal region of Pakistan, headquarters of al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, and also home to a syndicate of other militant jihadist groups from across Asia.

It is where Faisal Shahzad, who tried to blow up a car bomb in Times Square in May, was trained. So was Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-American who plotted to explode bombs on Manhattan’s subways in 2009. It is also the source of a good deal of the violence that is wracking neighboring Afghanistan.

Yet this critical region is one of the most opaque places in the world; international journalists and aid organizations rarely venture there, there’s little open dialogue because, until last year, most political parties were banned from operating there. As a result, the views of its inhabitants have largely been a mystery.

We recently conducted the first comprehensive public opinion survey covering sensitive political issues in the region, which is known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA. The poll found that nearly nine out of every 10 people oppose U.S. military operations in the region. This view is intensely held. While only one in 10 FATA residents think suicide attacks are justified against the Pakistani military and police, almost six in 10 believe these attacks are justified against the U.S. military.

To read the rest of this article, visit CNN.com, where this was originally published.

Ken Ballen is president of Terror Free Tomorrow, a nonprofit institute that researches attitudes toward extremism. Peter Bergen, the editor of the AfPak Channel, is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and at New York University’s Center on Law and Security, and the author of The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader. He is a national security analyst for CNN.  Patrick C. Doherty is the director of the Smart Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation in Washington.

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