At least eight people, including an unidentified tactical trainer for al-Qaeda, were killed in a series of American drone strikes in Pakistan early on Tuesday, intelligence sources told Reuters.
Wired reports that including Tuesday's strikes, the number of drone strikes in Pakistan since the new year stands at six. The count has decreased over the past two years, but spiked just after January 1.
Wired's Spencer Ackerman writes:
A trio of drone-fired missile strikes between Wednesday and Thursday killed a Pakistani Taliban commander and at least 19 others. Another on Sunday reportedly killed another 17 people, bringing the estimated death toll in this young year to 35.
According to the Associated Press, Tuesday's missile strike targeted a compound near the town of Mir Ali in the tribal region of North Waziristan, near the Afghan border.
The strikes come one day after the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan warned of the 'overuse' of aerial reconnaissance and attack drones. Retired General Stanley McChrystal said that while drones have enabled smaller missions, they have exacerbated "a perception of American arrogance," that can harm American interests in the long run.
"What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world," McChrystal said, according to Reuters. "The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes ... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one or seen the effects of one."
In a new report for the Council on Foreign Relations, Micah Zenko argues that while the use of drones presents clear benefits for the U.S. military -- they can follow targets for hours, strike within minutes and don't put U.S. personnel at risk -- there are specific setbacks connected to their use.
Like any tool, drones are only as useful as the information guiding them, and for this they are heavily reliant on local military and intelligence cooperation. More important, significant questions exist about who constitutes a legitimate target and under what circumstances it is acceptable to strike. There is also the question of net utility: To what extent are the specific benefits derived from drone strikes offset by the reality that the strikes often alienate the local government and population?