With all the talk now squarely focused on Syria, the American drone campaign rumbles on. Another drone strike in Pakistan struck a compound in the border town of Dargah Mandi in North Waziristan, killing at least seven suspected militants who were inside. The area is considered a base of operations for the Haqqani network, an Islamist insurgent group known for attacking American troops in neighboring Afghanistan.
Drone strikes tend to fly under the radar (no pun intended) thanks to the secrecy in which attack orders are shrouded in. The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has been put under the temporary command of the CIA under "Title 50" authority, and this combined with the agency's license to kill and the Department of Justice's legal creativity has allowed drone operations to go virtually uninterrupted without congressional oversight outside of a few hearings.
The primary recipients of American drone strikes continue to be Pakistan and Yemen, and while strikes have decreased over the past two years, they are still a major part of the ongoing War on Terror. Drone strikes in Pakistan under the Obama administration reached their peak in 2010, with 122 drone operations conducted in the country, according to data from the New America Foundation. The strikes have decreased in Pakistan since, dropping to 73 in 2011 and 48 in 2012; this year the current count is at 20. Since taking office in June, new Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been adamant to both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that the drone strikes against his country must end as they breach Pakistan's sovereignty.
Unlike Pakistan, drone strikes in Yemen have increased since 2010, from a single strike in 2010 to 11 in 2011 and a four-fold increase in 2012, to 47. The current number rests at 22, but with a few months left in the year that number will surely rise. According to Twitter account Dronestream, which tracks every drone strike the U.S. commits, the last strike in Yemen occurred on August 30, killing six. Yemen was also the country where American citizen and cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his son were killed by drone strikes, sparking controversy among civil liberties advocates. Also unlike Pakistan, the Yemeni government supports American drone operations, with President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi recently stating that the drone strikes in his country were coordinated between the Yemeni government and the Americans.
Drones strikes have become one of the most widely used tools in the government's toolkit in combating terrorism and as long as there is a War on Terror, the United States will continue justifying their use.