The drone strikes have been able to wreak havoc upon the enemy in strongholds where the Pakistani military has been unable or unwilling to launch an offensive. About 90 percent of the strikes happen in North Waziristan, the home of the Haqqani network, European terrorist recruits, and most of those who fled the offensives in Swat Valley and South Waziristan. It has been reported that the drone strikes have forced many terrorists to flee from the tribal area to nearby areas like Kurram and Orakzai.
The New America Foundation says that over 1,000 terrorists have been killed — and that, according to its database, the overall casualty rate since the beginning of the drone campaign has dropped steadily from 25 percent to a low of six percent in 2010. The Foundation credits this to improvements in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, noting that there have been over 100 joint CIA and ISI operations in the past year and a half.
The success of these strikes begs two questions: why aren’t they being used even more often, and why aren’t they being defended? On January 23, over 2,000 Pakistani tribesmen held an anti-American protest after two strikes in North Waziristan killed seven people. There has been nothing said to the Pakistani people about the necessity or the humanity of these strikes. This isn’t a failure of communication; it’s a complete absence thereof.
The Obama administration may be dissuaded from expanding the drone campaign because of a concern over causing anti-Americanism, but as The Long War Journal shows, favorability ratings for the U.S. and opposition to the strikes among Pakistanis have stayed relatively the same between 2007 and August 2009, when the massive increases began. The anti-Americanism of the Pakistanis has not correlated with the intensity of the campaign. At the same time, the favorability of al-Qaeda and the Taliban has sharply decreased because of their brutality.
The drone strikes are an unqualified success. The Obama administration began considering using them more in Yemen following the cargo plane bomb plot. Why stop there? Al-Shabaab in Somalia has been frighteningly successful in recruiting Americans and could, for the first time in al-Qaeda’s history, give the terrorist group its own country. The enemy continues to enjoy safe harbor in parts of Pakistan outside of North Waziristan, such as Balochistan and the Northwest Frontier Province. And the U.S. military has identified 150 terrorist training camps in Pakistan to be targeted in a retaliatory campaign after an attack, not a preventative campaign before an attack. What makes these places less suitable targets than North Waziristan?
Let me put it this way: if something is making al-Qaeda publicly wail, then we should do it more.