ISLAMABAD: The US drone strike targeting Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was the first-ever in Balochistan, which has long been a ‘red line’ for Pakistan.

There have been about 391 drone strikes by the US in Pakistani territory, primarily targeting Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders since 2004, according to a database maintained by Long War Journal.

All but four of these strikes took place in the tribal agencies. The only previously reported strikes that took place in settled areas were in Hangu district (2013) and three in Bannu (2008).

Seventy-one per cent of the strikes took place in North Waziristan, while 23pc targeted areas in South Waziristan.

The strikes in Bannu had prompted fears among the Pakistani leadership that the US could expand the theatre of drone warfare into the settled areas of Pakistan, i.e. outside the tribal region.

“Even politicians who have no love lost for a dead terrorist are concerned by strikes within what is considered mainland Pakistan,” then US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson had conveyed to Washington after the drone strike in Bannu, leaked diplomatic cables had revealed.

While the government kept condemning drone strikes all along, terming them a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, it had already conveyed a set of ‘red lines’ to the US in 2010, specifically mentioning attacks in Balochistan as a no-go area.

A document at that time had, while defining the ‘red lines’ communicated to the Obama administration, stated explicitly: “No extension of drone attacks to Balochistan.”

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2016

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