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“The drones have killed the masterminds, the planners,” said Mr. Rana. “But as long as their structures are intact, their capacity is intact, and they can pose a threat at any time.”

The strikes also force the militants to spend a lot of time worrying about how to avoid being killed, according to Mr. Rizvi.

“That means they have trouble training suicide bombers, planning long-term strategy,” he said.

Many Pakistanis criticize the drone strikes because they believe they mostly kill innocent civilians, a message reinforced by militants and often by Pakistani officials.

The U.S. does not acknowledge the CIA-run drone program in Pakistan publicly, but American officials have claimed privately that the attacks kill very few civilians.