Though Pakistani officials were quite clear on Monday in their demand that the US put its entire drone strike program “on hold” for the foreseeable future, drones were active again today in South Waziristan, attacking a village and killing at least six people.
The Zardari government had long been a tacit supporter of such strikes. The ugly number of recent incidents, as well as anger over the Raymond Davis affair and its subsequent revelation that a number of US spies were operating in Pakistan beyond the ones cooperating officially with the government, however, have sparked a backlash. Now it is not just cabinet ministers but Pakistan’s powerful military establishment making the demands that the strikes stop.
The latest strike spawned another quick rebuke from officials, who insisted the attacks are “counterproductive” and are indeed being used as a recruitment tool by militant factions. The US has launched scores of such strikes since President Obama took office, killing massive numbers of people, many of them civilians.
The continued strikes had previously been done in the context of some backdoor agreements with officials to keep them going, but in the absence of those it seems the Obama Administration is betting Pakistan just doesn’t care enough about the constant bombardment of their tribal areas to actually do anything about it. With a growing anti-US backlash across Pakistan and the military looking to assert itself, that could be an extremely dangerous bet.