What motivates militants

I have friends who tell me all the time that if drones were banned and the Americans sent packing, somehow everything would stop. Drones are feeding the militant groups, they say, because the families of those killed turn into suicide bombers to take revenge. I have always thought this was a strange way of taking revenge for drone strikes – blowing up a mosque or market filled with innocent people. But there’s another problem with this logic also.

If suicide bombers are created by people who are taking revenge for their family members killed by drones, why don’t people whose family members are killed in militant attacks turning into suicide bombers also? Is their grief not as painful? Do they love their families less? Of course not. The fact is that suicide bombers are not taking revenge for drones, no matter what the Taliban propaganda agents say. The proof is in the pudding.

Look at who is being turned into suicide bombers – children.

Children in the settled and tribal areas of the northwest are commonly used to carry out suicide attacks in Pakistan. In one case in 2009, the army detained 20 boys from the Swat valley and nearby areas apparently being trained by the Taliban to become informants, fighters and suicide bombers. Eleven among them were as young as seven years. According to a report in the Washington Times, there is a big price tag on child bombers, ranging from $7,000 to $14,000.

And these are not children who are taking revenge, they are turned into bombs under threat from militants.

In October 2010, in Karachi, the police arrested a 16-year-old `would-be suicide bomber`. The boy told the media that the Taliban had warned him that if he refused to carry out the attack or told anybody about it, they would slit his throat. It was the fear of being slaughtered that led him to agree to carry out the suicide bombing.

Today the reports continue about a 9-year-old girl who was kidnapped and forced to wear a suicide vest by her captors.

One of the kidnappers put a handkerchief on her mouth that knocked her unconscious, she said in an interview with a local TV station. When she woke up and started crying, one of the women fed her biscuits laced with an intoxicant which again knocked her out. The next time she woke up she found herself in a strange home, she said.

“This morning, the women and men forced me to put on the heavy jacket and put me in the car again,” the girl said.

“They put one suicide vest on me, but it did not fit. Then they put on annother one,” Sohana said. “I threw away the vest and started shouting (for help) as I came close to the check post and they (security forces) took me into custody.”

“They kept me in a house and they told me to push the button (to detonate the suicide vest) when I reach near policemen,” she told reporters.

This is not anti-imperialism, and it has nothing to do with drones or any other American actions. This girl did not want to take revenge against America, she wanted to go to school.

Groups like SSP were killing innocent people long before the Americans ever put their boots on the ground in Afghanistan, and long before Raymond Davis ever turned the streets of Lahore into a Wild West shooting gallery. Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said quite clearly that the Taliban’s aim is to take over Pakistan. The jihadis goal is not to send the Americans packing, it is to gain control of Pakistan’s strategic assets so that they can be used as a threat to impose their foreign ideology.

None of this means that anyone has to support drones or American actions in Afghanistan or anywhere else. This is not an excuse for imperialism or American foreign policy. But please do not swallow the jihadi propaganda that says militants are nothing but a reaction to America. This is only a convenient excuse used to confuse people and create a distraction from the militants true aims.

The truth is that if the jihadis were gone, the Americans would leave also. But if the Americans leave, the jihadis will still be here.

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