What the US Should Know about Drone Strikes in Pakistan

Drones are one of the sophisticated tools used by the US against alleged militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Iraq.


Taliban in FATA involved in a cross border terrorism.

The use of this robotic technology, invented by an Israeli scientist named Abraham Kareem, has totally changed the course of 21st century warfare.

Since 2004, drone strikes have been carried out in the Federally Administrated Tribal Area of Pakistan, and is part of Operation Enduring Freedom. After invading Afghanistan, militants relocated their networks to the tribal belt of Pakistan and started conducting cross border raids.

As a result it compelled the US to prolong the use of drone technology to the areas vis-a-vis the international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan known as the Durand line. The strikes are carried out with the flagrant consent of Pakistan’s political and military leadership. Ample evidence regarding the consent can be put forward in black and white.

New York Times journalist David Rohde, captured by the Taliban in tribal area of Pakistan, narrates

“During my time in the tribal areas, it was clear that drone strikes disrupted militant operations. Taliban commanders frequently changed vehicles and moved with few bodyguards to mask their identities. Afghan, Pakistani, and foreign Taliban avoided gathering in large numbers. The training of suicide bombers and roadside bomb makers was carried out in small groups to avoid detection.”

This begs the question: If drone strikes are so precise, why do Pakistanis condone them? There are three main causes:

1.  Signature strike

2.  Double tap strike

3.  Lack of supported media

There are basically two different kinds of strikes conducted by US drones in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas: Signature strike/kill list and personality strike.

Those people which are killed on the basis of behavior or pattern, as it resembles to that of terrorists rather than knowing their precise identity, falls in the category of signature strike. Drone strikes shows that hardly any civilians may be targeted in personality strikes and interestingly people have no reservation over the nature of such strikes, because Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed in personality strikes.

But the problem starts with signature strikes, as it sometimes targets civilians and often inflicts greater civilian casualties. Pakistani media and civil society strongly condemn such strikes that cause great collateral damage.

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Similarly, we can recall the March 17, 2011 attack on a local assembly held in Datta Khail of North Waziristan. That signature strike killed 38 innocent members of a local assembly of tribal elders. Another example occurred on July 6, 2012 in the village of Zowi Sidgi near the city of Miran Shah, which killed eight laborers.

Another cause of disgust is the “double tap strike,” when two strikes simultaneously occur on the same point or target with a short span of time (5-8 minutes).

Double tap strikes have compelled families of victims not to rescue relatives out of fear of a follow-up attack. As cited earlier the attack over laborers in Zowi Sidgi village was a double tap strike. In that incident the first drone strike killed eight laborers instantly. After the incident the laborers nearby rushed to rescue the targeted people and a  second strike hit the ten remaining rescuers on the spot, resulting in 18 casualties. Thus double tap strikes are decreasing the number of drone sympathizers in the area.

Lack of independent media in the country has further fomented anti-drone sentiments.

The primary source of information are national newspapers and state media. Furthermore Pakistani print as well as electronic media is not independent on state security issues, so they are utterly dictated by pressure groups. They cannot criticize the Taliban or military, so the only one left to blame is the US.

Media censorship helps foster anti-Americanism among Pakistanis, which is why it is time for the US to introduce their own media channel in Pakistan. This could provide extensive courage to those issues where Pakistan is engaging in duplicity concerning drones, the Taliban or in Afghanistan. US independent media would be helpful in bringing peace in Afghanistan, and in winning the minds and hearts of Pakistanis would help the US ultimately succeed in combating terrorism.

Yousuf Stori is a graduate researcher at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid Azam University of Islamabad, Pakistan. The writer is conducting research on drones in the FATA region.