Pakistan's tribal areas — The Times Square firecracker bomber allegedly trained there, various Taliban factions and Al Qaeda operate there, and guess what? We're at war there, using flying robots! Here's a quick guide to America's South Asia Robot War.
Initiated during the Bush Administration, and accelerated under Obama, the not-so-secret CIA drone program in Pakistan has killed an estimated 1,300 people, mostly militants, in the last six years. Roughly 30% of those killed were civilians. Using reports from over a dozen news sources from 2004 to present, Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the New America Foundation have been keeping tabs on our clandestine war in Pakistan through a report called The Year of the Drone. At first glance, you might think it's a traveler's virtual pin-map of some exotic land. But zoom in and you'll see a multi-colored map of victory, where Predator© and Reaper© drones blow stuff up with one click of a joystick.
One of Pakistan's leading English-language newspapers, Dawn, yesterday reported that Times Square attempted bomber Faisal Shahzad has ties to Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud — a guy we claimed to have killed in a drone strike back in January, but is now reported to be alive. There is no proof yet linking Shahzad and Mehsud. The US killed his brother, former Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, last year in a drone strike inside the country's tribal areas.
Though the taste of revenge is sweet, and a lot of nasty people have been taken out under the program, raining bombs on populated areas from behind a computer screen also presents a moral dilemma and could be undermining America's overall strategy in the region. The New Yorker's Jane Mayer covered this last year, here. Below is a chart of deaths caused by drone attacks.