Obama Escalates Drone Strikes Inside Pakistan

Strikes Increase in Number, Severity in Recent Weeks

by Jason Ditz, February 20, 2009

President Barack Obama made clear his desire to launch attacks onto Pakistani soil early in the campaign, and in his first month since taking office it has become evident that is escalating the number and severity of the attacks using drone aircraft well beyond what the Bush Administration’s attacks in its final several months in office.

Two major strikes have been launch in the past week, in the South Waziristan and Kurram Agencies of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The attacks killed 30 and 31, respectively, and both appeared to target militants affiliated with Baitullah Mehsud.

The escalation has come as the Pakistani government has struggled to battle claims that they are “privately” backing the attacks while offering public condemnations. This battle has been hampered by a growing number of officials on both sides admitting to the agreement and photographic evidence that they have indeed been hosting US Predator drones at one of their air bases.

The drone strikes have been wildly unpopular in the Pakistani tribal areas, sparking massive protests as they kill civilians with impunity. With Pakistan struggling to maintain control over the area against a growing insurgency, the escalation of the attacks is liable to exacerbate the credibility problems faced by the Pakistani government among the tribes.

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