Air strikes by drones effective in Waziristan

Insurgents unnerved, disrupted by attacks

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan | Extensive CIA-operated Predator drone strikes against remote hide-outs of al Qaeda, the Taliban and other groups in Pakistan are forcing many insurgents out of Waziristan to other areas.

Sources in the North Waziristan tribal region, the area where most of the drone strikes occurred in 2010, said the pervasive attacks have been nonstop and appear to be increasing. These sources suggest that because of a fear of being targeted, fewer insurgents are showing up in the main bazaars of North Waziristan.

“After the great increase in American drone attacks, we could see very few fighters, particularly foreign militants. Previously, they used to roam around in large numbers fearlessly,” shopkeeper Aslam Wazir told The Washington Times by telephone from Mir Ali.

Mir Ali is the second-largest town in North Waziristan and is considered a major redoubt of al Qaeda and Pakistani insurgents, the main reason it has seen the largest number of Predator strikes over the past year.

Of the 124 U.S. drone attacks in 2010 in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan, 83 percent were carried out in North Waziristan.

**FILE** In this photo from Jan. 31, 2010, a U.S. Predator drone flies above Kandahar Air Field in southern Afghanistan. (Associated Press)

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**FILE** In this photo from Jan. 31, 2010, a U.S. Predator drone ... more >

Most observers and experts agree the attacks in Pakistan have been highly effective.

Some disagree on the fallout from the strikes. Analysts say the drone war is spawning a new breed of fighter made up of relatives of nonmilitant casualties who were killed by air strikes.

“Drone attacks have clearly unnerved both al Qaeda and Pakistani insurgents in the tribal areas,” said Ashraf Ali, who heads Islamabad-based FATA Research Center. “What we have observed [is] that these hits have compelled insurgents to limit the use of communication gadgets, like satellite phones, etc.”

Mr. Ali said militants who are located in different areas and even those in Waziristan can no longer travel for face-to-face meetings with fellow insurgents.

“So with limited meetings and squeezing personal and impersonal communication, the coordination of insurgents has suffered a lot,” he said.

The insurgents’ difficulties in coordinating activities also is affecting organizational strength.

“Obviously, due to lack of coordination, insurgents cannot carry on with and expand their main activities, including recruiting, training more militants and executing terrorist attacks through them,” Mr. Ali said.

“The few big terrorist attacks we have seen in the northern tribal districts of FATA, including Khyber, Bajaur and Mohmand recently are seemingly incoherent, isolated incidents aimed at [pressuring] the government to ask the U.S. to stop drone attacks.”

Pakistani tribal areas, also called the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), include seven districts of North and South Waziristan, so-called southern FATA.

“There is no doubt that drone attacks have been effective in striking insurgents. But they will have their fallout as the near and dear ones of the innocents killed in these hits are most likely to be new militants,” said Pakistani journalist and analyst Rahimullah Yousafzai.

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