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Douglas Barrie, a senior fellow for military aerospace at the IISS, said in an interview, that “If the question is ‘Would losing basing in Pakistan cripple operations against al Qaeda?’ the answer is ‘no.’ It would, however, increase the demand on unmanned vehicles. You would likely need more unmanned aerial vehicles to sustain the same number of orbits because of having to transit further distances.”

The two main aircraft deployed in Pakistan, the 250-knot Reaper and the 100-knot Predator, can fly for up to 20 straight hours.

Drones are used for reconnaissance and surveillance, as well as electronic intelligence-gathering. Some models carry precision-guided missiles or bombs that are used in strikes against ground targets, normally terrorist groups or their leaders in hard-to-access areas.

Last week, the New America Foundation released a report, based on Western newspaper reports, that said there have been 234 drone strikes in northwest Pakistan since 2004, which have “killed approximately between 1,439 and 2,290 individuals, of whom around 1,149 to 1,829 were described as militants in reliable press accounts.”

The report also noted that civilian fatalities have decreased over the years.

Since 2004, the report found, “the true non-militant fatality rate … was approximately 20 percent,” but “in 2010, it was more like six percent.”