COINCIDING with the visit of US Centcom chief Gen James Mattis to Pakistan last week, there has been a marked increase in drone strikes in North Waziristan Agency. A strike was conducted on Tuesday while two drone attacks were reported on Sunday.
Saturday — the day Eid was celebrated in the agency — also saw a drone strike. There are indications that in one of the strikes missiles were fired at the same compound twice, as people undertook rescue work after an earlier attack. According to reports, such ‘double-tap’ attacks, in which those arriving at the scene of a drone strike are also targeted, seem to be becoming a routine part of America’s drone policy.
Unfortunately, targeting gatherings in tribal areas under the assumption that all present are militants or their sympathisers is problematic, especially if there is no clear evidence to prove their identity. In the aftermath of the recent barrage of drone strikes, such evidence has yet to be produced. This, and the sheer insensitivity of timing the attacks to coincide with the Eid season will only alienate an anti-American public further. What also fuels anger is that such unilateral strikes by the US violate the principles of sovereignty. Even if the US can come up with irrefutable evidence that the strikes have taken out dangerous militants, drone operations must involve Pakistani coordination and consensus. Trigger-happy strikes will do no more than aggravate the crisis and sour an already un-easy relationship. Without doubt, North Waziristan is a hub of militants and terrorists of every stripe who threaten the security of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a crackdown in the area by Pakistani forces is imperative. But no military operation will be helped by the US blindly — and unilaterally — raining down drones on the agency.