Book Review from Major Agha Humayun Amin.
This is an interesting endeavor by a self-styled expert on drones from the University of Southampton in United Kingdom.
I first read about this great expert on drones in a review by one Mr. Phillip O Warlick II of Air Command and Staff College who elevated the book and its author to prophetic heights.
Having witnessed some drone strikes personally and having extensively travelled in the area affected by the so called US drone program I decided to buy this book which was quite a blunder as I now reflect in retrospect.
Blunder in the sense that I learnt nothing additional about the drone program.
Disappointing right from the first few pages i.e the prologue of the book when he starts discussing Mustafa Abul Yazid or Saeed Al Masris death in a drone strike. The writer claims that he was killed in retaliation for the Bagram attack of 17/18 May 2010 or so. Now Bagram attack was launched by Afghan Taliban with headquarters in Kuchlagh Quetta and hardly any link with Saeed Al Masri based in North Waziristan.
To support his assertions the author quotes letter from Osama Bin Laden held in West Point.
The source of the assertion is highly questionable but above all the organizational set up is totally contradictory , in that an attack carried out by an Organisation known as Afghan Taliban is linked with a totally puny and insignificant organization known as Al Qaeda.
What our brilliant author does not answer is “why US drones should strike a target which has nothing to do with Bagram Air Strike” or more precisely “ Why US drones should not target Kuchlagh , instead of Abul Yazid”.
I started having serious doubts about the credibility of the books narrative .
This scribe will offer an answer to these questions in this narrative at a later stage .
Our author claims that Abul Yazid had congratulated the Khost December 2009 attacker? But this was done by various people on the internet , you tube and on other public forums ? (page-3)
In a fit of verbosity and oratory our author makes some non factual claims :– (page-1)
What huge dragnet ? The two agencies North and South Waziristan where 90 % of all US drone attacks in last 12 years or so were carried out are a puny area not very large and it is common knowledge that most of so called foreigners, Arab,Uzbek,etc are in a small area surrounding Miram Shah.
Now our learned author calls an area 90 x 50 miles as huge , where the CIA has a huge dragnet as he brags, but says nothing why the mighty CIA never attacked the area some 1500 Km long along Afghan border on Pakistan border from where 90 % of Taliban attacks on US troops were carried out ?
This is one of the huge loophole in Mr Fullers narrative ?
Mr Fuller indulges in much dramatics not suitable for a serious writer of non fiction military analysis like describing women operating drones like on page -4 describing a drone sensor operator :–
My issue with Mr Fuller is not at all about the human rights or ethical aspect of drone strikes but why US drone strikes only targeted two small districts North Waziristan and South Waziristan and why not Pakistani Baluchistan where 90 % of killers of US troops in Afghanistan were housed ?
Fuller gives no answer in his whole narrative which focuses on melodramatics and verbosity which is neither relevant nor accurately linked to the subject of the book.
In chapter titled “ Let Him Sleep” the author makes much of Al Qaeda in US Afghan war but throughout the narrative fails to prove that Al Qaeda was the major player in inflicting maximum casualties on US troops in Afghanistan which were inflicted by Mulla Omar based in Pakistani Baluchistan and never targeted by US drones who are so much projected in this book.
There was only one US drone strike in Pakistani Baluchistan in 2016 when US troops had withdrawn from most of Afghanistan and the war was literally over since 2012.
On page 9 the author claims that the Abbottabad raid against OBL was carried out without Pakistan’s consent , which may be treated as authors conjecture or speculation but not a confirmed fact .
On page 9 and 10 our brilliant author claims that there are three drone programs in operations and the book is more concerned with drone program run by CIA , the James Bond that our author is !
There is no map to explain who runs which program in which area which is certainly a major analytical draw back of the book.
I severely dispute the authors rabid bias against President Bush like on page 13 :–
As a matter of fact Obama was a far bigger disaster not only in presiding over decisions involving unwarranted drone attacks but in causing maximum casualties to US troops in Afghanistan by sanctioning a pointless escalation in Helmand Kandahar and Kunnar in 2009-11.
As I read the book , repeated impression I got was that this book was funded by the CIA or sponsored by some CIA asset who wanted to white wash CIAs drone program .
At times the writer appears like a spokesman of the CIA in rationalizing and defending CIA sponsored drone strikes.
Reagan era chapter is pure hogwash.
The author fails to note that Reagan acted as unwitting midwife of so called future Islamic extremism by extensive capacity building of so called Islamists which were concentrated with CIA and Saudi efforts from worldwide into Pakistan’s western provinces.
Glorification of Haig on page 26 is exaggerated and irrelevant to the main subject of the book i.e Drone Warfare:–
Terrorism was never the issue in Reagan area where the prime US concern was USSR and a low intensity conflict against the USSR.
On page 27 he makes one sided statements like USSR sponsoring terrorism while conveniently ignoring that USA was doing the same thing in Afghanistan since 1980 :–
The writers tone throughout is one sided i.e he sees all actions not taken by USA or UK as actions of bad guys while ignoring US policy in supporting so called Islamists in Afghanistan against USSR.
The problem with Fullers analysis is supreme confusion like on page 28 he claims that US Secretary of State identified state sponsored terrorism and US CIA’s drone program was its logical conclusion.
However he fails to note that 99 % of US drone strikes in Pakistans FATA region were carried out against small time non state actors who hardly had any connection with vast bulk of US military deaths in Afghanistan.
On the other hand throughout this book Fuller fails to establish why no US CIA or JSOC or military drone strikes were carried out against the real killer of US troops i.e the Pakistani state sponsored Afghan Taliban based in Pakistani Baluchistan.
The writer has nothing to say about so many massive compromises made by Reagan administration with so called Muslim or Arab states where there were clear indications that citizens of these states were involved in terrorism.
How Reagan administration sat like a duck when US embassy was attacked in Beirut on 18 April 1983 or again on 23 October 1983.
How apologetically lame was Reagan administrations response when his secretary Defence Casper Weinberger stated that the US lacked knowledge about who did the Beirut Bombings although he was in full knowledge of the fact that the US National Security Agency had an intercept where Iranian state had ordered the Beirut bombings.
In 2006 January a US Second Secretary in Kabul named Doug Scherer summed it up well while defining US bureaucrats fear of Iran in words “my seniors are wet pu_____s hiding behind e mails and would have a heart attack if they see a war game plan simulation of an attack on Iran “ !
This irrational US fear of Iran and the resultant US strategic irresolution is nowhere discussed by Fuller.
Reagan administration lacked moral courage to confront terrorism.Just look how they blinked after the 1983 bombings in Lebanon.
All that the indecisive Reagan administration could say was not now ?
What was Reagan policy against Iran or against radicalism in Arab world , evasive and apologetic at best.
But our author finds no fault with Reagan administration.
Our author then goes on to glorify George Schultz as the ultimate warrior against terror.
The whole premise of Fuller is fallacious. He fails to establish a case that non state actors caused maximum casualties on US troops in Afghanistan and totally ignores and hides the fact that some 80 % casualties on US troops in Afghanistan were causes by Pakistani state supported Afghan Taliban. This remains he most serious conceptual flaw of this book.
The author is rightly critical of Reagan administrations passiveness but fails to note that this passiveness carried on in all US policies till today including George Bush ,Obama and now President Trump.
Fuller misses the essential point that US has always avoided the real hard targets like Iran,North Korea while going for non entities like Afghanistan or droning small time characters in North and South Waziristan Agency.
On page 88 our authors extols CIAs war in Afghanistan but fails to note that there was hardly any fighting in Afghanistan as Taliban simply withdrew to safe havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan was captured without a single US casualty.
Al Qaeda who Fullers so much exaggeratedly projects, was a non player in Afghanistan while the real player Afghan Talibans were never attacked inside Pakistan by Fullers favorite CIA drones.
Throughout the book Fuller beats around the bush talking about Al Qaeda in Pakistans FATA region while totally ignoring the fact that Al Qaeda was a non entity in terms of inflicting casualties on US troops in Afghanistan.
The worst drawback of this Yale published book is that it does not contain a single map .
I am surprised and shocked at the cartographic petty parsimony of our brilliant scholar from Southampton and Yale !
Our brilliant scholar has no conception about size of groups that attacked US forces in Afghanistan and embarks on this totally Quixotic and Utopian endeavor to educate the world about US drone warfare !
As an example the map below shows the approximate size of the so called extremist groups in Afghanistan:–
What Fuller has been doing in this 369 book , a total loss of stationery is talking about US drone attacks on the smallest group in Af Pak i.e Al Qaeda.
What Fuller states and his entire perception about Afghanistan is flawed.
There is no hesitation if I state that this book is one big failure and it is so because the writers basic perceptions are totally flawed and out of touch with reality of the situation in Afghanistan.