With a ground invasion in Gaza and MH17 shot down over Ukraine, one could be forgiven for overlooking the drone strikes that have started again after a six-month break in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas. Despite the lack of attention, the strikes themselves have hardly been subtle: a recent drone strike killed 13 people, the bloodiest strike in over a year. The Bureau for Investigative Journalism reports.
The attack reportedly destroyed a house and car in the Datta Khel area early on Wednesday morning. The dead were unidentified though one source said up to 12 were Uzbeks.A senior intelligence source told the Washington Post: “The compound was being used by foreign militants, and some local terrorists were present in the vehicle that got targeted.”This was the second strike in six days to hit near the village and surrounding area. The first, on July 10, killed six or seven people.
It might seem like an age ago, but drone strikes were once the hottest topic in Pakistani politics, and the sharpest thorn in the Pak-American relationship. The strikes were indicative of the U.S. taking on what it thought should have been Pakistan’s responsibility to pursue militants. It invigorated the fortunes of Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician who mobilized thousands against the incumbent government and the U.S. over the singular issue. They led to a break in security cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan, as the U.S. decided to pursue targets it felt Pakistan was harbouring. They led to congressional hearings in DC and mass protests in Pakistan. But even since their restart, they have hardly been noticed by Pakistanis, let alone anybody else.The truth is that ever since the Pakistani military launched an operation against the Taliban last month, the military has fought hard to paint the Taliban fighters as anti-Pakistan terrorists—and not paid agents or estranged brothers. Another perception, that this was America’s war, has also dissipated. This has to do with the Pakistani security establishment’s gradual realization that harbouring extremist militants as tools of foreign policy in both Afghanistan and India was a bad idea. All of a sudden, the drone strikes are seen as assisting Pakistan’s fight against militants rather than hampering it.Ironically, the drone strikes are now emblematic of increased security cooperation and intelligence sharing—ultimately better relations—between Pakistan and the U.S.