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Inside Jihadi Ranks, ‘The Line To Blow Yourself Up Remains Horrifyingly Long’

REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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Calling it a “failure” of U.S. drone strategy, a former Pakistani diplomat said young people in countries like Pakistan are lining up in “horrifyingly” large numbers to blow themselves up in the name of Islam.

Inside the ranks of young people attracted to jihad, “the line to blow yourself up remains horrifyingly long,” Akbar S. Ahmed, chairman of Islamic studies at American University, told The New York Times. “That line should be getting shorter.”

Rather than reduce violence or the number of willing suicide bombers, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are simply adding to the violence, Ahmed told TheNYT. “There’s a massive failure of strategy.”

In an unprecedented disclosure last week, President Barack Obama said the administration believes U.S. drone strikes outside of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have killed between 64 and 116 civilians since he took office. About 2,500 terrorists were killed in the strikes in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya, the administration said.

Obama issued an executive order along with the disclosure, requiring future administrations to publicly release an estimate of civilians killed by the U.S. drone program each year, and to make civilian protection an official priority of the government.

Human rights groups and independent experts take issue with the number, saying it’s likely much higher, and are skeptical the tactic is making much of a real difference in the terror threat, even if it’s dispatching of very dangerous terrorists.

“It’s an important step,” Rachel Stohl, a drone program expert and senior associate at the Stimson Center, told TheNYT, referring to the civilian deaths disclosure. “It’s an acknowledgment that transparency is needed. But I don’t feel like we have enough information to analyze whether this tactic is working and helping us achieve larger strategic aims.”

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