The drone strike that killed Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mansour in Balochistan earlier this week has once again strained Pak-US ties, with Pakistan terming the attack a 'violation of sovereignty' and the United States (US) vowing to continue targeting terrorists on Pakistani soil – if need be.
The US began carrying out drone strikes in 2001, after 9/11, under the administration of then president George W. Bush. Since then, the US has conducted 910 strikes in four countries ─ Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Pakistan is at the top of this list, with 424 drone attacks since 2004.
Over 2,500 people have been killed in US drone strikes, of which at least 350 were civilians.
There have been 424 drone attacks in Pakistan from 2004-2016, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
DRONE STRIKES IN PAKISTAN
• 424 strikes since 2004
• 373 strikes under Obama govt
• Over 2,500 people killed in strikes
• 2010 worst year for strikes
• First strike killed a Taliban commander
The first drone strike in Pakistan was carried out in 2004 to kill Taliban commander Naik Muhammad, according to data available with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism report (BIJ).
Over the last 12 years, more than 65 per cent of drone strikes were carried out in North Waziristan. Other areas hit by strikes include South Waziristan, Orakzai Agency, Bajaur, Bannu, Hangu, Khyber Agency and other parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The greatest number of drone strikes on Pakistani soil, 128, were carried out in 2010, during US President Barack Obama's second year of presidency. Most drones were dispatched from US bases in Afghanistan.
There was a 631pc jump in drone strikes under President Obama, compared to the Bush administration. According to the BIJ, Bush authorised 51 strikes, while Obama gave the go-ahead for 373 strikes.
However, the civilian casualty rate at 3.3pc was higher when George W. Bush was president compared to just 0.7pc under Obama. The overall casualty rate was also lower under current US leadership at 5.6pc compared to 8pc under Bush.
In 2016, the Obama administration carried out three drone strikes in Pakistan; the first one on January 9, the second on February 22.
The third drone strike of the year ─ and the first US drone strike outside the tribal areas ─ killed Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour and a civilian on May 21 in Balochistan, which has long been a 'red line' for Pakistan.
Pakistan had conveyed a set of 'red lines' to the US in 2010, specifically mentioning attacks in Balochistan as a no-go area.
In the 15 years since the Bush administration first invaded Afghanistan following 9/11, the US military has conducted 320 drone strikes in the war-torn country.
BIJ data shows 1,980 militants and over 100 civilians have been killed in these drone strikes.
The US began conducting drone strikes in Yemen in 2002. There have been 139 drone strikes to date, according to data with the BIJ.
Over 770 people have been killed in these strikes, of which 90pc were militants.
The Long War Journal says that from Jan-May 2016, America has carried out 15 drone strikes in Yemen.
BIJ says the US conducted 29 drone attacks in Somalia in which 392 people were killed. At least 10 of those killed were civilians.
Human rights organisations and even some former US military commanders argue that drone strikes inadvertently increase terrorism by exerting a “blowback” effect.
Their logic is simple. Drone strikes kill more innocent civilians than terrorists, which radicalises affected populations and motivates them to join terrorist groups to retaliate against the US.
Opinion polls, such as those carried out by the Pew Research Centre, indicate widespread Pakistani anger at drone strikes. Pew’s latest (2014) survey showed that 67 per cent of respondents opposed drone attacks because they kill “too many innocent people”.
However, Pew data on drones is deeply misleading as the organisation draws its samples mostly from urban areas not directly impacted by drone strikes.
Nonetheless, in a 2011 survey conducted by a local NGO in Fata, 63 per cent of the respondents thought drone strikes “are never justified”.
But when the results are disaggregated, support for drone strikes is the highest in North Waziristan, the Fata agency where the CIA has carried out most of its lethal drone operations, compared to the other six.