November 12, 2008: American aid worker killed in Pakistan

On November 12, 2008 a USAID contractor was killed along with his driver in an Islamist terrorist attack in Peshawar.

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN – The ‘war on terror’ has often talked about the need to win ‘hearts and minds’ as well – by both sides.

It never ceases to amaze me how often terrorist groups frame their actions in terms of what is ‘right’. If we take nothing but their words and statements we would have to conclude that these extremists have only what is best for us and if we were just to realise that their selfless deeds are all carried out with our betterment in mind we would all be at ease.

Of course, some of these groups, the Islamist ones in particular, tell us that they are doing ‘God’s (i.e. Allah’s) work’. They are simply following what their good book (i.e. the Quran) tells them and they really have no choice in the matter. And if some ‘innocent’ bystanders are killed? We all know that you cannot make God’s omelet without breaking a few eggs, right?

Hey! You really gotta try our ‘breakfast special’! Three eggs and a side of suicide bomber! (Photo: ISIS)

Interestingly, those fighting terrorism also talk incessantly about winning ‘hearts and minds’. I recall being part of planning sessions at Canadian National Defence back in the early 2000s just as our military mission to Afghanistan was getting going and we would debate non-stop how to win the support of the Afghan people. I am not sure where this all ended up.

Don’t get me wrong: doing good to help locals is indeed a very noble cause. But it also introduces an element of danger as bodies tasked with this goal are themselves targeted by terrorists. Here is a good example.

On this day in 2008

Stephen D. Vance, a contractor with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was killed along with his driver in an attack in Peshawar. Blame was attributed either to Al Qaeda (AQ) or the Pakistani Taliban.

Ever since the Taliban started targeted assassinations against politicians a few months ago, it was almost inevitable that they would target U.S. aid efforts.

Joshua White, a research fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Mr. Vance was part of the US’ “hearts and minds” outreach in Pakistan and was a veteran of such programmes around the world. Colleagues described him as “very pleasant, a good conversationalist with a refined demeanor — he certainly wasn’t an ugly American.” To the terrorists he was nothing but the ‘enemy‘.

Gee, I wonder how many Pakistani hearts and minds were won over by his death?

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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