Concepts, Featured, Political Concepts

It’s America who is dependent on the Muslim Rulers

In a recent congressional hearing, in front of the US foreign relations committee, Daniel Markey from the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) made a number of telling remarks. In his hearing titled ‘Pakistan: Challenges for U.S. Interests’, he outlined the vulnerability and reliance of the US military on Pakistan. He highlighted, “Pakistan permits and at times has enabled the US to wage a counterterror drone campaign over parts of its territory and, even at times of deep bilateral discord, to continue flying personnel and arms across Pakistani airspace into Afghanistan. Neither side has been eager to publicise these areas of cooperation, but even American skeptics must admit their utility.” But his most interesting excerpt was: “Air corridors are readily closed and drones are easy to shoot down, so if Pakistan had really wanted to end what in 2009, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta called the “only game in town in terms of confronting and trying to disrupt the al-Qaida leadership,” or to further complicate the US war effort in Afghanistan, it could have done so without breaking much of a sweat. It still could.”

Not for the first time has an expert highlighted the critical dependency the US has on the leaders in the Muslim world to execute its colonial agenda. This dependency can be seen upon closer scrutiny of the weapons systems used.

The US Air Force operates over 5,484 aircrafts and its air force usually gains considerable attention due to its size, variety of aircraft and capabilities. But fighter jets, however capable, have numerous limitations. Fighter jets require jet fuel and the more fuel it carries, the heavier the jet and the more energy needed to make it move. Because the military’s planes burn fuel at such intense rates, it becomes impractical to talk about consumption in “miles per gallon.” Military fuel use is, instead, tabulated in “gallons-per-mile,” “gallons-per-minute,” and “barrels-per-hour.” While aircraft performance and capabilities are undeniably important in modern warfare, their ultimate impact is largely shaped and affected by a much larger and more mundane set of capabilities. The number, availability, and hardening of Air Force bases, as well as repair capabilities associated with them, are critical in determining outcomes. Fighter jets have a huge repair and maintenance requirement just to be in the air and any disruption to this would render an air war impossible. Despite US capabilities, it cannot fly sorties from the US continent around to conflict zones, it must use bases in close proximity to where it needs to wage war. Without these bases provided by the Muslim rulers and the uncontested airspace to wage war, the US would struggle to project power.

America’s war in Afghanistan and Pak­istan has seen the wide­spread use of Unmanned Aer­ial Vehi­cles (UAV), com­monly known as drones. Whilst much debate con­tin­ues on the moral aspect of their use, this mil­i­tary plat­form is now a crit­i­cal component of America’s global mil­i­tary foot­print.

UAV oper­a­tions are all about data. Every­thing its sen­sors detect must be received by the con­troller, and every com­mand the con­troller gives must get to the drone. Get­ting this data across space requires infra­struc­ture. In its sim­plest form, this can be an advanced remote con­trol, but this means you have a very lim­ited oper­a­tional range. In more advanced ver­sions, portable ground sta­tions can be set up with pow­er­ful trans­mit­ters and anten­nas that extend this reach. In the most advanced ver­sions, com­plex data sys­tems and space-based satel­lites can be net­worked and used to project data over vast dis­tances. For all of this to take place these drones require logis­ti­cal net­works and access to air­fields just like all air­craft. For all prac­ti­cal pur­poses any nation want­ing to deploy drones will need for­ward bases and plenty of infra­struc­ture to oper­ate them. This is a big vul­ner­a­bil­ity as such facil­i­ties would need to be in close prox­im­ity to the bat­tle­field mak­ing them sus­cep­ti­ble to a strike, which would end their use.

Most UAVs are slow, easy to see and vir­tu­ally defence­less. Lack­ing the agility of fighter jets, drones can­not oper­ate well in hos­tile air­space. Gen. Mike Hostage, Chief of the US air service’s Air Com­bat Com­mand, con­firmed: “The drones that have proved so use­ful at hunt­ing al Qaeda are use­less in nearly every other bat­tle­field sce­nario. Preda­tors and Reapers are use­less in a con­tested envi­ron­ment today. I couldn’t put [a Preda­tor or Reaper] into the Strait of Hor­muz with­out hav­ing to put air­planes there to pro­tect it.”[1] Despite their wide­spread use in Afghanistan and Pak­istan, US drones have not faced any chal­lenge in the air­space above both coun­tries as their lead­ers have been in com­plete cahoots with the US and as a result US drones faced no oppo­si­tion. In con­tested air­space, drones as a weapon sys­tem are near use­less. Gen. Mike Hostage con­firmed: “MQ-1s and MQ-9s have lim­ited capa­bil­ity against even basic air defences. We’re not talk­ing deep over main­land China; we’re talk­ing any con­tested air­space. Pick the small­est, weak­est coun­try with the most min­i­mal air force — [it] can deal with a Preda­tor.”[2]

The US has been reducing its troops for the last few years in Iraq and Afghanistan after years of suffering losses amongst its personnel due to insurgencies in these countries. The US despite its firepower was humbled in Afghanistan by the Taliban; and currently the US has little stomach for US troops to be deployed into Syria.

In any military campaign, an appreciation of geography is key and getting your troops to where they should be and supplying them with various goods is critical. In James Dunnigan’s guide to comprehensive warfare in the 21st century, the importance of logistics (or supply lines) was outlined: “If the troops have no ammunition, they can’t do much damage to their opponents. Without food and medical supplies, your soldiers will melt away without ever fighting the battle. Without spare parts and fuel for their vehicles and equipment, this gear quickly becomes inoperable. The task of supplying ammunition, food, fuel, spares and other items to the troops is called “logistics.” It’s not a very glamorous task and is often neglected, such lack of dedication normally leads to disasters. It’s an ancient military maxim that ‘amateurs study strategy and tactics, professional study logistics.”[3]

The US never learnt the lesson of previous empires who all attempted to conquer Afghanistan. Like their predecessors they struggled to maintain supply lines to cover the country’s mountainous terrain. Whilst the US attempted to win a conventional victory which relied on a large support network of engineers, doctors, servicemen and crews the Taliban targeted such supply lines at various nodes causing the war effort to completely stall. So simple were the Taliban attacks that at various points in the war over the last decade more US troops were defending other troops rather than fighting the Taliban. This was why in 2012, at a NATO summit in Chicago, America and her allies accepted defeat. The summit statement read: “After ten years of war and with the global economy reeling, the nations of the West no longer want to pay, either in treasure or in lives, the costs of their efforts in a place that for centuries has resisted foreign attempts to tame it.”[4]

All weapons systems have vulnerabilities, it is the nature of objects. But for these systems to succeed they need many things to fall into place, without which they would be ineffective. Their ineffectiveness and vulnerability has been concealed by the Muslim rulers who give their nations airspace, seaways, ground bases as well as energy and food in order for them to succeed. Daniel Markey from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) is absolutely right when he highlighted: ‘if Pakistan had really wanted to end what in 2009, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta called the “only game in town in terms of confronting and trying to disrupt the al-Qaida leadership,” or to further complicate the US war effort in Afghanistan, it could have done so without breaking much of a sweat. It still could.


Adnan Khan

[1] “Predator drones useless in most wars top air force general says”, Foreign Policy, September 2013,

[2] Ibid

[3] James Dunnigman, “How to make war,” Fourth edition 2003, Harper, pg 499.

[4] “We are now unified to end Afghan war, Obama says”,  Star Tribune, May 21, 2012,