Washington and Kabul have, for endless months, been performing a strange pas de deux over the issue of American withdrawal. The less Karzai complied, the more Obama administration and Pentagon officials betrayed an overwhelming need to stay.
In October 2012, I was with a CODEPINK delegation in Pakistan meeting families impacted by U.S. drone strikes. Kareem Khan, a journalist from the tribal area of Waziristan, told us the heartbreaking story of a drone strike that killed his son and brother.
The need for a paradigm shift in the bilateral relationship appears to be an idea whose time has come within the U.S. foreign policy community. A revived U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue has the potential to launch a different kind of strategic framework.
Beyond the controversy of drone strikes is the issue with Congress's deplorable conduct. On that day Nabila and her family shared their heartfelt testimony, 430 representatives missed the opportunity to learn about the implications of the drone strike policy.
While there is no such thing as an excusable killing of a civilian, these statistics, and the constant pressure to prevent further terror acts on American soil, somewhat mitigate the harm caused by the CIA's controversial drone assassination campaign.
Who is targeted, why, how and what civilian protection measures are put in place are unknown to anyone but a tight inner circle of policy makers -- an about-face for a president who pledged a transparent government in his first term. And Congress is following his lead.
Drone strikes are mostly killing low-level Pakistani militants, not al Qaeda leaders. This strategy is unlikely to cause the collapse of al Qaeda or even the Pakistani Taliban and may have counterproductive effects. Obama's second term may therefore require new thinking on drones.
Currently in Pakistan filming with victims of drone attacks, I have never had a more haunting and harrowing experience than looking into the eyes of person after person, and hearing them talk about their homes, villages and families destroyed by drone attacks.
"The U.S. missile-attacks destroy militant training compounds and cars but they also hit mosques, homes, religious schools and civilian vehicles. I witnessed the fear, stress and depression this causes for the tribal communities on a visit to the region in May."
Most Democrats want to get U.S. troops the hell out of Afghanistan (outside of Official Washington, most Republicans agree.) But, the story goes, these Democrats have to have an "alternative," and the "alternative" is drone strikes.
As public opinion in Pakistan increasingly sees the U.S. as an enemy and not an ally, President Obama should assert his moral authority regarding the drone program and restore the human element to the use of military force.