In 2009, the U.S. launched at least 50 missile strikes in northwest Pakistan.
While drone attacks are more frequent than ever before, there is wide disagreement about civilian deaths.
On the New America Foundation’s AfPak Channel, Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann wrote in October that about one-third of those killed in drone attacks since 2006 were civilians.
Yet, Pakistani government statistics, as reported by the Dawn news service, said that these strikes killed more than 700 civilians — amounting to 90% of casualties.
The Long War Journal, a site that tracks drone attacks, reported that U.S. missiles have assassinated 16 al-Qaeda leaders and 16 mid-level al-Qaeda or Taliban militants since January 2008.
View our interactive map showing approximate locations of all U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004:
See larger map. [Yellow = pre-2008 strikes / Red = 2008 strikes / Green = Obama administration strikes]
According to published reports, most of the strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles are against terrorists who operate out of North and South Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The U.S. military had long remained silent about remote-controlled C.I.A. missile strikes.
But a delegation of U.S. senators visiting Islamabad last week expressed their support of the “drone war,” which was started by the Bush administration in 2004 and has escalated dramatically since President Obama took office.
The Pakistani government officially objects to the attacks but is lobbying for the U.S. to share drone technology.
Meanwhile, the attacks have generated increasing popular resentment toward the U.S.
Critics argue that raising the level of anti-Americanism in Pakistan might outweigh the benefits of successful strikes.
The Dec. 30 suicide bombing of the Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, may have been an attempt to avenge the South Waziristan attack that killed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud on Aug. 5.
Seven C.I.A. employees died in the Khost attack, many of whom were integral to the coordination of the drone war from their base, according to ABC News.
– Ben Piven