NewYork Times; By DECLAN WALSH: Making up is never easy. But as Pakistan and the United States try to restart their troubled relationship after a year of spectacular crises, the difference could come down to drones.
For the Obama administration, facing a faltering war effort and increasingly distrustful allies in Afghanistan, the covertC.I.A. drone strike campaign centered on North and South Waziristan in northwestern Pakistan has acquired new relevance.
Although the drones are best known for targeting senior commanders of Al Qaeda — two more were reported killed in January — they also play a vital role in combating cross-border infiltration from Taliban havens inside Pakistan. Of the 10 confirmed strikes so far this year, 6 hit vehicles filled with fighters that, in several cases, were headed for the Afghan border, a senior United States official said.
“We must protect the troops, and almost all of that stuff is in Waziristan,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the drone program is classified.
Interviews with militants in those areas leave little doubt that the drones have disrupted their operations, driving fugitive leaders deeper into the mountains. But that matters little in mainstream Pakistan, where public discourse rings with thunderous condemnations of breached sovereignty and civilian casualties.