Targeted killing by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, has become the central element of U.S. counterterror operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, a safe haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. Over nearly a decade, drone-attack frequency and death rates have increased dramatically. Rather than calming the region through the precise elimination of terrorist leaders, however, the accelerating counterterror program has compounded violence and instability. These consequences need to be addressed, since the summer of 2011 has seen the dramatic expansion of the drone program into Yemen, Somalia and Libya.
Drone warfare has complicated the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, a sisyphean counterinsurgency and nation-building project, by provoking militant attacks in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan.1 At the strategic level, fragmented U.S. intelligence and military policies are working at cross purposes, eroding trust through "covert" drone warfare on the Pakistani side of the Durand line while trying tardily to build trust on the Afghan side. The growing outrage of Pakistani society came to a head in spring 2011 over the Raymond Davis incident and the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden. These events put great stress on relations between the United States and the world's most volatile nuclear state.