The United States government has made a series of attacks on targets in Pakistan since 2004 using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles). Under the George W. Bush administration, these controversial attacks were called a part of the US' "War on Terrorism" and sought to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants who were thought to have found a safe haven in Pakistan. Most of these attacks are on targets in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Northwest Pakistan. These strikes are thought to be carried out by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operated remotely by the Central Intelligence Agency and have continued under the Presidency of Barack Obama. Generally the UAVs used are MQ-1 Predator and more recently MQ-9 Reaper firing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The drones have become a weapon of choice for the United States in the fight against al-Qaeda. Some media refer to the series of attacks as a "drone war".
June 18, 2004:
5 including Nek Muhammad Wazir killed in a strike near Wana, South Waziristan.
May 14, 2005:
Haitham al-Yemeni killed in a strike near the Afghan border in North Waziristan.
November 30, 2005:
Al-Qaeda number 3 Abu Hamza Rabia killed in an attack by CIA drones in Asoray, near Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan.
January 13, 2006:
Damadola airstrike kills 18 in Bajaur but misses Ayman al-Zawahri.
April 26, 2007:
4 killed in the village of Saidgi in North Waziristan.
June 19, 2007:
20 killed in the village of Mami Rogha in North Waziristan.
November 2, 2007:
5 killed in an attack on a madrasah in North Waziristan.
January 29, 2008:
Abu Laith al-Libi killed in a strike in North Waziristan
February 27, 2008:
12 people killed in a strike near Kalosha village in South Waziristan.
March 18, 2008:
16 killed in a strike in South Waziristan
May 14, 2008:
12 including Abu Sulayman Al-Jazairi killed near village of Damadola, Bajaur.
July 28, 2008:
Midhat Mursi and 5 other Al-Qaeda operatives killed in South Waziristan.
September 8, 2008:
23 killed in Daande Darpkhel airstrike, near Miranshah, North Waziristan.
September 12, 2008:
12 killed in Miranshah airstrike.
September 30, 2008:
6 killed in a strike near Mir Ali, North Waziristan.
October 16, 2008:
Senior Al-Qaeda leader Khalid Habib killed in a strike near Taparghai, South Waziristan.
October 22, 2008:
4 killed in a village near Miranshah by missiles fired from suspected US drone.
October 26, 2008:
20 killed in a strike in South Waziristan.
October 31, 2008:
20 killed including Al-Qaeda operative Abu Akash and Mohammad Hasan Khalil al-Hakim (alias Abu Jihad al-Masri) after 4 missiles hit Waziristan.
November 14, 2008:
12 killed in a strike near Miranshah.
November 19, 2008:
Abdullah Azam al-Saudi killed in Bannu district.
November 22, 2008:
British Al-Qaeda operative Rashid Rauf and 4 others including Abu Zubair al-Masri killed in a strike in North Waziristan.
December 22, 2008:
at least 8 killed in South Waziristan by suspected US drone strike.
January 1, 2009:
2 senior al-Qaeda leaders Usama al-Kini and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan killed in a missile strike by US drones.
January 23, 2009:
In the first attacks since Barack Obama became US president, at least 14 killed in Waziristan in 2 separate attacks by 5 missiles fired from drones.
February 14, 2009:
more than 30 killed when two missiles are launched by drones near town of Makeen in South Waziristan.
February 16, 2009:
Strike in Kurram Valley kills 30.
March 1, 2009:
Strike in Sararogha village in South Waziristan kills 7 people.
March 12, 2009:
24 killed in attack in Berju in Kurram Agency.
March 15, 2009:
4 killed in Jani Khel in Bannu district in North-West Frontier Province.
March 25, 2009:
7 killed in attacks on 2 vehicles by two missiles in Makin area of South Waziristan at 6:30pm.
March 26, 2009:
4 killed in Essokhel area in North Waziristan.
April 1, 2009:
14 killed in Orakzai Agency tribal area.
April 4, 2009:
13 killed in North Waziristan.
April 8, 2009:
4 killed in attack on a vehicle in Gangi Khel in South Waziristan.
April 19, 2009:
at least 3 killed and 5 injured in an attack in South Waziristan
April 29, 2009:
strike in Kanni Garam village in South Waziristan kills 6 people.
May 9, 2009:
strike in Sararogha in South Waziristan kills 6 people.
May 12, 2009:
strike in Sra Khawra village in South Waziristan kills 8 people.
May 16, 2009:
strike in village of Sarkai Naki in North Waziristan kills 25 people.
June 14, 2009:
strike on a vehicle in South Waziristan kills 5 people.
June 18, 2009:
strike in Shahalam village in South Waziristan kills 5 people.
June 23, 2009:
strike in Neej Narai in South Waziristan kills at least 8 people.
June 23, 2009:
Makeen airstrike kills at least 80 but misses Baitullah Mehsud in the town of Makeen, many of which were attending the funerals of people killed in the air strikes earlier in the day.
July 3, 2009:
US Drone kills 17 people and injures a further 27.
July 7, 2009:
strike in Zangarha in South Waziristan kills at least 12 people.
July 8, 2009:
strike on a hideout in Karwan Manza area and on a vehicle convoy in South Waziristan kills at least 50 people.
July 17, 2009:
strike on a house in North Waziristan kills 4 people.
August 5, 2009:
strike in South Waziristan is believed to have killed Baitullah Mehsud and his wife.
August 11, 2009:
strike in Ladda village, South Waziristan, kills 10.
August 21, 2009:
missile strike on the village of Darpa Kheil, North Waziristan, reportedly targeting Sirajuddin Haqqani kills at least 21 people.
August 27, 2009:
missile strike on the Tapar Ghai area in the Kanigram district in South Waziristan kills at least 6 people.
As per a study collating all strike data in 2009, the casualties up to July 18 2009 has already surpassed the hits over all of 2008. The strikes have also become much more lethal with an increase in average kills per strike. The strikes were also found to be concentrated in Waziristan
Barack Obama authorized the continuation of these strikes after he became US president. Top US officials consider these strikes very successful and believe that the senior al-Qaeda leadership has been decimated by these strikes. A list of the high-ranking victims of the drones was provided to Pakistan in 2009. Obama has broadened these attacks to include targets seeking to destabilize Pakistani civilian government and the attacks of February 14 and 16, 2009 were against training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud. On February 25, 2009 Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, has indicated the strikes will continue. On March 4, 2009 The Washington Times reported that the drones were targeting Baitullah Mehsud. Obama was reported in March 2009 as considering expanding these strikes to include Balochistan
US officials stated in March 2009 that the Predator strikes had killed nine of al-Qaeda's 20 top commanders. The officials added that many top Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders, as a result of the strikes, had fled to Quetta or even further to Karachi.
Some US politicians have condemned the drone strikes. US Congressman Dennis Kucinich asserted that the United States was violating international law by carrying out strikes against a country that never attacked the United States.
US military reports asserted that al-Qaeda is being slowly but systematically routed because of these attacks, and that they have served to sow the seeds of uncertainty and discord among their ranks. They also claimed that the drone attacks have addled and confused the Taliban, and have led them to turn against each other.
During a protest against drone attacks, in an event sponsored by Nevada Desert Experience, Father Louie Vitale, Kathy Kelly, Stephen Kelly, SJ, Eve Tetaz, John Dear, and others were arrested outside Creech Air Force Base on Wednesday April 9, 2009.
In May 2009 it was reported that the USA was sharing drone intelligence with Pakistan. Leon Panetta reiterated on May 19, 2009 that the US intended to continue the Drone attacks.
On July 20, 2009, the Brookings Institution released a report stating that ten civilians died in the drone attacks for every militant killed. It suggested the real answer to halting al-Qaeda's activity in Pakistan will be long-term support of Pakistan's counterinsurgency efforts. In July 2009 it was reported that (according to US officials) Osama Bin Laden's son Saad bin Laden was believed to have been killed in a drone attack earlier in the year.
Pakistan has repeatedly protested these attacks as they are an infringement of its sovereignty and because civilian deaths have also resulted, including women and children, which has further angered the Pakistani government and people. General David Petraeus was told in November 2008 that these strikes were unhelpful. However on October 4, 2008 The Washington Post reported that there was a secret deal between the US and Pakistan allowing these drone attacks. US senator Dianne Feinstein said in February 2009: As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base. Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi denied that this was true.
In September 28, a spokesman for the Pakistani army condemned Washington's killing of Pakistani civilians and warned of retaliatory action: "Border violations by US-led forces in Afghanistan, which have killed scores of Pakistani civilians, would no longer be tolerated, and we have informed them that we reserve the right to self defense and that we will retaliate if the US continues cross-border attacks."
The British newspaper The Times stated on February 18, 2009 that the CIA was using Shamsi airfield, 190 miles southwest of Quetta and 30 miles from the Afghan border, as its base for drone operations. Safar Khan, a journalist based in the area near Shamsi, told the Times, "We can see the planes flying from the base. The area around the base is a high-security zone and no one is allowed there.Top US officials confirmed to Fox News Channel that Shamsi airfield had been used by the CIA to launch the drones since 2002.
The drone attacks continue, despite repeated requests made by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari through different channels. Baitullah Mehsud while claiming responsibility for the 2009 Lahore police academy attacks, stated that it was in retaliation for the drone attacks. According to The Daily Telegraph, Pakistani intelligence has agreed to secretly provide information to the United States on Mehsud's and his militants' whereabouts while publicly the Pakistani government will continue to condemn the attacks.
According to Pakistani authorities, from January 14, 2006 to April 8, 2009, 60 U.S. strikes against Pakistan killed 701 people, of which 14 were Al-Qaeda militants and 687 'innocent civilians'.
On April 28, 2009 Pakistan's consul general to the US, Aqil Nadeem, asked the US to hand over control of its drones in Pakistan to his government. Said Nadeem, "Do we want to lose the war on terror or do we want to keep those weapons classified? If the American government insists on our true cooperation, then they should also be helping us in fighting those terrorists." President Zardari has also requested that Pakistan be given control over the drones but this has been rejected by the US who are worried that Pakistanis will leak information about targets to militants.
On August 20, 2009 the Pakistan Air Force announced that it would begin development on its own version, called Falco, of unmanned aerial vehicles in collaboration with Italian company Selex Galileo. Production was to begin at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in Kamra.
Human rights issues
On June 3, 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) delivered a report sharply critical of US tactics. The report asserted that the US government has failed to keep track of civilian casualties of its military operations, including the drone attacks, and to provide means for citizens of affected nations to obtain information about the casualties and any legal inquests regarding them. Any such information held by the U.S. military is allegedly inaccessible to public due to the high level of secrecy surrounding the drone attacks program. The US representative at UNHRC has argued that the UN investigator for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions does not have jurisdiction over US military actions, while another US diplomat claimed that the US military is investigating any wrongdoing and doing all it can to furnish information about the deaths.