Drone warfare being my special interest, I was very keen to read this book.
Reviewed in the United States on January 18, 2021
Drone warfare being my special interest, I was very keen to read this book. The layout is well laid out and the printing is of top quality. The hard copy is a collector’s item. However most of the author’s assertions have little contact with hard reality of drone warfare as I closely witnessed it in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. First the author has unduly projected drone manufacturers and producers of various surveillance equipment. He finds nothing extraordinary in drone sales and how nefarious US officials used drones, at least in FATA area of Pakistan. Let me clear first of all that I am not against drone strikes but I take issue with the fact where drone strikes target the wrong people who had nominal or no connection with some 90 % US fatal casualties in Afghanistan. The author ignores the hard fact that some 90 % so called terrorists or insurgents are state sponsored historically and the lead state in this are USA followed by Pakistan Russia UK and a long list. Throughout the book he fails to establish a fair case that so called non state actors who comprise some 10 % of all so called terrorists are a threat to global security . What we have is a captivating title to sell a book but no explanation of how a puny set of guys in baggy trowsers are a threat to global security. FBI figures proves that the most dangerous killers in USA are Hispanic gangs and an American is more likely to die of a furniture fall or a lawn mower than any terrorist accident. In chapter one he makes a statement that most formidable opponents of states have been terrorists have been insurgents and terrorists. He fails to reflect or take into account the fact that the biggest so called insurgency in Vietnam and Afghanistan was financed and supported by USSR and USA respectively. Our supposedly educated professor fails to note that Afghanistan before it was militarized by the USA, UK and Pakistan in 1978 was the most peaceful country in Asia. He perhaps has not read that Kabul had a Hindu viceroy in 17th century and there was no internal security threat in Afghanistan. As late as 1970s hippies from Europe freely hitch hiked across Afghanistan and mixed freely with locals. But there are far more serious mistakes in this books narrative. First serious failing of the book is the authors failure to note that the US drone strikes in Pakistans FATA region only targeted two districts as some 90 % of all drone strikes between 2004 and 2012 and these drone strikes had little connection with eliminating the killers of some 80 % US troops in Afghanistan , who were based in Pakistani Baluchistans districts of Quetta,Pishin , QilaAbdullah,Zhob and Chaghai. The weakest part of the book is that it does not contain a single map. It does not analyse who exactly was targeted by US drones and what impact it had on the US Afghan war.
The author fails to analyse that the Americans were fooled by Pakistani military usurper Musharraf brilliantly on a strategic level and duped into targeting North Waziristan and South Waziristan districts (agencies) only while the vast bulk of Afghan Taliban were provided sanctuary by the USA. He fails to note that US drone strikes were carried out in only two Pakistani districts far away from the real centre of gravity of the US Afghan war as the top US leadership was firstly duped by Musharraf and secondly did not have the strategic resolution to confront nuclear armed Pakistani state . Although US CIA all along believed that the Taliban centre of gravity was in Pakistani Baluchistan , US top leadership only carried out drone strikes in two districts far away from Quetta as that is where General Musharraf had authorized them to do so vide a secret agreement . Now this had ethnic background also. Pakistansrulimg establishment is non Pashtun and regarded Pakistans FATA Pashtun tribes as fair cannon fodder to be sacrificed for Pakistans Punjab heartlands strategic interests when required. The bottom line remains that US drone strikes carried out in NWA and SWA only had no impact on the US Afghan war as the Afghan Taliban leadership was comfortably housed in Pakistani Baluchistan. On page.8 he spells Caucasus as Caucuses. His claim that Russia has not defeated the insurgency in Caucasus is also out of touch with reality and it is out of place and time and context to quote the Beslan massacre of 2004 , in a book written 14 years later in 2018. Something seriously wrong with the authors sense of history. His claim that 6000 Pakistani soldiers were killed in FATA war is also inflated and fictitious by a highly exaggerated extent. I interviewed Lt Gen Tariq Khan in 2013 and he told me that only 4 Pakistani soldiers were killed in defeating Baitullah Khan Mehsud when Tariq Khan conducted operation against BaitullahMehsud in 2008. His assertion that Iraq war and Malayasian war were examples of success of counter insurgency is also fallacious when the major insurgency that the USA faces remains Afghanistan. In both Malayasia and Iraq a minority was fighting while the majority Shias in Iraq and the majority Malays in Malaysia were pro British and pro US. His discussion on page 23 that drones and robots enhance counter insurgency strategy is also fallacious. With no US troops on ground how would the USA contest return of Taliban who are backed by a major state like Pakistan ? This question is nowhere addressed or answered by the author ? On page 24 he fails to answer the question whu US drones and other equipment throughout failed to effectively check the Afghan Pakistan or Afghan Iran border and prevent Taliban infiltration ? His assertion that robots would be effective in a war against China on page.24 is also unsubstantiated and he offers no supporting arguments. His claim on page 25 that robots prevented a draft in US Afghan war while in Vietnam war it was not possible. In Vietnam war the Vietcong were openly supported by USSR and China while in US Afghan war Pakistani support to Afghan Taliban was at a very covert level and thus not anything like Vietnam war. His entire argument that US IED deaths reduced significantly from 2009 to 2014 due to drones and robots etc is false. This reduction occurred basically because US force levels was highly successively reduced from 2009 to 2014. Many of his claims are those of a defence equipment broker like he projects Talon system on page 30 and highly exaggerates effectiveness of Talon system in Afghanistan. His own figures on page 33 state that a single rocket costs 50,000 US Dollars while insurgent rockets cost as low as 1000 USD or less. His logic on page 42 that drones are cheaper than an air craft is also fallacious where a conventional war may be fought by the USA. Iraq and Afghan war were highly uneven wars but even in Afghan war USA could never use drones against killers of some 80 % US troops due to political considerations. But this hard fact is totally ignored by the author. The author totally ignores Syrian conflict where USA totally failed at strategic level and most of US EW equipment supporting insurgents was neutralized by Russian EW systems like Krakushka etc. On page 50 also he acknowledges failures of Gorgon surveillance system.
On page 54 he confesses that states cannot overcome informational disdvantages when fighting against terrorists. On page 56 again his claims about defeating IEDS are highly inflated and exaggerated. Raven hand launched plane has not been very successful in Afghanistan but this aspect escapes our brilliant authors Solomons wisdom and sagacity. Although on page 57 he does admit Ravens failings but claims that this was reported only by “ some soldiers”. How he reaches the explanation remains a mystery. Chapter Three on drone strikes is a total white wash with no supporting map and no discussion about how these drone strikes impacted US Afghan war. On page 83 he is intellectually honest when he admits that it is unclear if US drone campaign is a strategic success or not ? The book is useful as far as basic technical data about robots and drones is concerned but fails to analyse things effectively at the operational and tactical level and biggest failure is his inability to discuss why US only targeted two districts in Pakistan while some 80 % insurgents were based in Pakistani Baluchistan.
All along he also fails to analyse failure of US officials in keeping an effective eye on the Pakistani state.
Finally all along the author fails to analyse that Pakistans TTP which suffered the 90 % brunt of US drone strikes in only two districts was only some 5 to 8 % of all insurgents in Af Pak.