Drone Strikes resumed during Zarb-e-Azb, further escalation after BSA

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According to data released by the Conflict Monitoring Center, drone strikes in Pakistan have increased during Zarb-e-Azb and further stepped up after signing of Bilateral Security Agreement between U.S. and Afghanistan. The Conflict Monitoring Center which monitors anti-state violence and drone strikes now works as statistical division of an independent think tank the Pak Institute for Conflict and Security Studies. The CMC’s data shows that American spy organization continued its assassination campaign in Pakistan and carried out 25 more drone strikes during 2014 killing 153 people and injuring at least 74. The CIA resumed its assassination campaign after an unprecedented pause of about six months. The resumption coincided with Pakistani military’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan.  The CIA had not carried out drone strikes in Pakistan after December 25, 2013.  Except one, all drone strikes were carried out during Operation Zarb-e-Azb which was criticized by Pakistani government and media because casualties in drone strike are used by militants as one of their motivational arguments to perpetrate violence against Pakistan. Pakistan has made it clear that Operation Zarb-e-Azb is across the board against all militant groups including Haqqani Network but the CIA kept following its own targets in the area. The pattern of drone strikes shows that the CIA is following its own priorities and hardly targeting Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Out of 25 strikes only two were aimed at Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).  Four drone strikes targeted Al-Qaeda; two were carried out against Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, four against Haqqani Network, Five against Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, one each against Punjabi Taliban, Molvi Nazir group and Jundullah while exact target of five such strikes could not be ascertained. Identity of only 34 out of 153 killed could be established. The rests were unknown suspected militants. Except three, all drone strikes were carried out in North Waziristan Agency.  Two strikes were observed in South Waziristan while one in Khyber Agency.

A new tactic was visible in drone strikes as most of the time the CIA followed moving target and when the target reached its destination it stuck with drones to eliminate the vehicle as well as the compound. Twelve such types of trikes were recorded while in ten strikes houses and in two strikes vehicles were targeted.  Exact target of one strike which was condemned by Pakistan’s Foreign Office but was not reported anywhere is still unknown. Pakistani Foreign Ministry issued a condemnation statement on December 4, 2014 which mentions a strike on December 3, 2014 but it was not reported anywhere else.

Highest number of drone strikes was carried out in October 2014 when the CIA struck 9 times including strikes on Eid-ul-Azha (One of the two major Muslim religious festivals) killing 50 and injuring 35 people. October was followed by December 2014 when the CIA carried out five strikes which killed 22 and injured 10 people. The CMC recorded two strikes in June, three in July, one in August, two in September and three in November.

Although the overall number of drone strikes declined further in 2014 but if compared with last six months of 2013 the number increased almost two times as only 13 drone strikes were recorded during that period. A sudden rise in drone strikes is observed after signing of Bilateral Security Agreement by Afghanistan’s new regime.  After ceasing combat operations in Afghanistan the US is heavily relying on drone strikes to safeguard its interests in the region. Pakistan wants an end to drone strikes and considers it a long term threat to its interests.

Last year 181 people were killed in 27 drone strikes including Hakeemullah Mehsud and Wali ur Rehman Mehsud of TTP. So far the CIA has carried 416 strikes in Pakistan in which 3459 people were killed. Despite Pakistan’s official stance against drone strikes no official mechanism has been adopted to identify the dead or keep an official record of drone victims.

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