Inside the busiest month on record for drone strikes

The news that the latest chief of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan may have been killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan a few days ago is starting to seep over the world’s news sites, and today’s Wall Street Journal led with the story that this month’s 21 drone strikes were aimed at disrupting ...

Bonny Schoonakker/AFP/Getty Images
Bonny Schoonakker/AFP/Getty Images
Bonny Schoonakker/AFP/Getty Images

The news that the latest chief of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan may have been killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan a few days ago is starting to seep over the world's news sites, and today's Wall Street Journal led with the story that this month's 21 drone strikes were aimed at disrupting an alleged plot to attack targets in France, Germany, and the U.K.

This has been the busiest month on record for the drones, which target militants in Pakistan's tribal areas -- the next closest in terms of the frequency of the strikes was January 2010, with 12, following an attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan's Khost province. By our calculations, this month's attacks have killed at least 90 people described as militants in reliable press accounts. If Sheikh Al-Fateh was indeed killed by a drone strike, he would be the tenth militant leader to be felled this year, and the 15th under the Obama administration.

More facts about the drone strikes, as reported: This year, 66 of the 75 drone strikes have been in North Waziristan, which is a hotbed of militants affiliated with a range of groups such as the Haqqani network, al-Qaeda, and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Eight were in South Waziristan, and one was reported in Kurram.

The news that the latest chief of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan may have been killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan a few days ago is starting to seep over the world’s news sites, and today’s Wall Street Journal led with the story that this month’s 21 drone strikes were aimed at disrupting an alleged plot to attack targets in France, Germany, and the U.K.

This has been the busiest month on record for the drones, which target militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas — the next closest in terms of the frequency of the strikes was January 2010, with 12, following an attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan’s Khost province. By our calculations, this month’s attacks have killed at least 90 people described as militants in reliable press accounts. If Sheikh Al-Fateh was indeed killed by a drone strike, he would be the tenth militant leader to be felled this year, and the 15th under the Obama administration.

More facts about the drone strikes, as reported: This year, 66 of the 75 drone strikes have been in North Waziristan, which is a hotbed of militants affiliated with a range of groups such as the Haqqani network, al-Qaeda, and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Eight were in South Waziristan, and one was reported in Kurram.

One thing seems relatively certain: with the Pakistani military unwilling or unable to carry out major military operations in North Waziristan; Pakistani officials decrying NATO helicopter strikes just over the Pakistani border; and General Petraeus wanting to "turn up the heat on the safe havens," the drone strikes will continue.


View U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan in a larger map >

For more on drones, see our report: The Year of the Drone: An Analysis of U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2010

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