On Thursday, U.S. drones killed at least four militants in Pakistan. It is the fourth such strike since a Pakistani military operation commenced in June.
The June drone strikes killed nearly 19 militants, including a high-level Haqqani network commander, Haji Gul, and two senior Afghan Taliban leaders. Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned the strikes, calling them a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. However, other media reports said that Pakistani government officials privately coordinated with U.S. authorities on the attacks. The Washington Post reported in October that Pakistani government officials have for years secretly endorsed the drone program and received regular classified briefings on drone strikes from their U.S. counterparts.
The identities of the July 10 strike targets could not be confirmed, but Pakistani officials continue to decry the drone program, claiming that these strikes are “not a part of our operational plan.”
The breakdown of the Pakistan government’s talks with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and ensuing military offensive against TTP hideouts in North Waziristan created favorable conditions for the U.S. to resume drone strikes in Pakistan. In January, the U.S. had acceded to Pakistan’s request to halt drone strikes in order to give Islamabad’s attempts to talk with the TTP a chance to succeed.
The drone attacks resumed shortly after a major militant attack on the Karachi airport that killed 36. Washington likely calculated that Pakistani public anger against the TTP would rise following the attack on the airport, thus dampening protests against U.S. strikes in the region.
Although Pakistan might often be at odds with the U.S. when it comes to fighting terrorism in the region, it cannot be ignored. Especially in light of recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. should continue to engage with Pakistan, as developments within the country most certainly affect the region in general.
Jack McKenna is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, pleaseclick here.