Figures compiled by a Washington-based think tank pointed out a decrease in the number of covert U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan for the second year in a row.
Based on its compilation of reports in international media, the New America Foundation said that 46 strikes were carried out in Pakistan in 2012, compared to 72 in 2011 and 122 in 2010.
The vast majority of the strikes in Pakistan hit in North Waziristan, Al-Qaeda’s main sanctuary and a stronghold for Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.
Many of the strikes were in and around the regional capital, Miranshah. These strikes, with Reaper or Predator drones, killed between 189 and 308 militants and at least seven civilians, the New America Foundation said.
According to the reports, the operational leader of the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, Badruddin Haqqani, son of the group’s founder, was killed in an August 21 drone strike — though the death has not been confirmed by other sources.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has its own fleet of 30-35 devices, according to the Washington Post, while the Pentagon can count on 215 Predator and Reaper drones, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Attacks by unmanned US aircraft remain contentious. They are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, which says they violate its sovereignty and fan anti-US sentiment, but American officials are said to believe they are too important to give up.
A report on the secret drone war in Pakistan says the attacks have killed far more civilians than acknowledged, traumatized a nation and undermined international law.
In “Living Under Drones,” researchers conclude the drone strikes terrorize men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. “The number of ‘high-level’ militants killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low — estimated at just 2% [of deaths]”, said the report.
Casualty figures are difficult to obtain. A report commissioned by legal lobby group Reprieve in September estimated that between 474 and 881 civilians were among 2,562 to 3,325 people killed by drones in Pakistan between June 2004 and September 2012.