The United States has been using drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal area since 2004 to weed out al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists. Indeed, hundreds of the militants have been eliminated in the drone attacks so far, but what about the collateral damage that has been caused by the strikes? The drone attacks have also been a bone of contention between the US and Pakistan. Pakistan's government and top military officials have, a number of times, called on the US to halt drone strikes in the country’s tribal area. Pakistan’s authorities say the drone strikes are counterproductive and are only breeding more terrorists in the region.
The New America Foundation estimates that the drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal area have killed between 1,953 and 3,279 people since 2004. The foundation further reveals that between 18 percent and 23 percent of the killed were not terrorists. Another study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that since 2004, the US has conducted 365 drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed between 2,536 and 3,577 people, including 411 to 884 civilians. A number of national and international legal experts say that it is not justifiable for the US to kill even a single civilian in the drone attacks.
On the other hand, US Presidenthas maintained the strikes are necessary for defeating al-Qaida and the Taliban, but a number of human rights activists and legal experts doubt the president’s claim. The United Nations special rapporteur on drones, British lawyer Ben Emmerson, recently visited Pakistan and concluded that the drone strikes were just helping radicalize Pakistan’s new generation. The Taliban and other terrorist groups were exploiting the youth whose family members were killed in drone strikes. The young generation feels that the US is one of their worst enemies on earth and therefore it is good to attack the US-led coalition troops based in neighboring Afghanistan. Also, hate against the US is growing fast among the young generation of Pakistan.
Emmerson says the US may have immediate results of the drone strikes by eliminating high-profile targets in Pakistan’s tribal region, but its long-term consequences are being ignored, something that could be disastrous for the whole world. He even said that if it is lawful for the US to target terrorists through drones, then it is legitimate for terrorists to attack US troops wherever they find them. The US should revisit its drone policy in Pakistan to avoid its long-term negative consequences.