Tribesmen Use US Drone Strikes to Settle Local Scores

As Missiles Continue to Fall, More Doubts About Identities of Victims

US Predator drones fired missiles into the North Waziristan Agency town of Machi Khel, killing at least seven people when they destroyed a vehicle. The identities of the victims are unknown, but all were referred to as “suspected militants.”

But where does this suspicion come from? In many cases, from nowhere at all. Amid their desperation to find targets, the US will launch missiles whenever they are tipped off about a suspect. Who’s doing the “tipping” may surprise you.

In many cases, it is other tribesmen within North Waziristan, who are using the reality of America’s willingness to kill on the flimsiest pretext to eliminate tribal rivals, or just local enemies.

There are times, of course, when these drone killings spark a massive backlash from Pakistani officials, like the time when they hit a tribal jirga of government allies. Many tribesmen in Waziristan don’t have the luxury of ties to the Zardari government, so when US missiles tear through their homes on a tip, there is little incentive to ask questions.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.