A drone strike every four days under Obama

Published: August 11, 2011
More than 2,000 Pakistani and international media reports have been examined.

More than 2,000 Pakistani and international media reports have been examined.


At least 2,200 people, including women and children, have been reported killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, according to a new study by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism in conjunction with The Express Tribune.

The dead include up to 21 alleged militants that were killed in North Waziristan on Wednesday.

The fundamental reassessment of US drone strikes has revealed there have been many more CIA attacks on alleged militant targets than previously reported. At least 291 US drone strikes are now known to have taken place since 2004.

The Bureau’s analysis also reveals that at least 2,292 people are credibly reported to have died – some 40% more deaths than generally claimed.

The intended targets of the CIA campaign – militants in the tribal areas – appear to make up the largest proportion of those killed. There are 126 named militants among the dead since 2004. But as many as 168 children have also been killed among at least 385 civilians.

More than 1,100 people are also revealed to have been injured in the US drone attacks – the first time this number has been gathered.

A counter-terrorism official revealed to the Bureau that internal US government figures record an estimated 2,050 people killed by the drone strikes, of whom all but 50 were militants. No ‘non-combatants’ – civilians – have been killed in Pakistan in the last year, the US official claimed.

The Bureau’s investigation took a team of journalists many months to complete.  It involved a complete re-examination of all that is known about each US drone strike. More than 2,000 credible Pakistani and international media reports were examined.  This was then cross-referenced with field reports from researchers; with details of civilian legal cases; with leaked intelligence documents; and with the writings of politicians, journalists and former intelligence officers.

The result is the clearest public understanding so far of the CIA’s covert drone war against the militants.

Despite this, a US counter-terrorism official told the Bureau that its numbers were ‘way off the mark’. The Washington-based official said: “These actions target militants planning actively to kill Afghans, Pakistanis, Europeans, and Americans among others, and most often the operations occur when they’re training or on the move, getting ready to attack. Over 4,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed by terrorists since 2009—the threat is clear and real.”

Civilian deaths

With the US military unable to operate overtly inside Pakistan, the Obama administration has come to rely heavily on CIA drone strikes to attack alleged militants in the country’s western tribal areas. To date, at least 236 drone attacks have been ordered in Obama’s name.

The Bureau’s research shows at least 1,842 people have been killed in the Obama strikes, most of them militants.

Recently, Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan reported that the president has ‘insisted’ that Pakistan drone strikes ‘do not put… innocent men, women and children in danger’. Yet at least 218 of those killed in drone attacks in Obama’s time in office may have been civilians.

Civilian casualties do seem to have declined in the past year. Yet the Bureau still found credible evidence of at least 45 civilians killed in some ten strikes in this time.  The US continues to insist that it ‘can’t confirm any noncombatant casualties’ in the past year.

In comparison, there were 52 Pakistan drone strikes during President Bush’s years in office. One in three of those attacks resulted in the reported deaths of children.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (www.thebureauinvestigates.com) has a 22,000-word database covering each individual strike in Pakistan in detail. The most recently reported civilian fatality was on July 12.  Abdul Jalil, a migrant worker home on leave from Dubai, died as the CIA attacked a car carrying eight alleged militants, the Bureau’s researchers in Waziristan report.

“It is simply unclear what ‘rules of engagement’ the CIA are following in Pakistan.  It’s also unclear how the USA is investigating the impact of attacks in order to assess their impact and compliance with international law. Given the failures of US intelligence…in Afghanistan, where conditions are relatively more conducive, there are real grounds for skepticism about the US’ ability to target accurately and to assess the impact of strikes accurately,” said Amnesty International’s Director of Asia Pacific Sam Zarifi.

The Bureau’s key findings

  • 291 CIA attacks have taken place in Pakistan – 8 % more than previously reported. Under President Obama alone there have been 236 strikes – one every four days.
  • Between 2,292 and 2,863 people are reported to have died in the attacks – most of them militants
  • The minimum number of reported deaths is far higher than previously believed – with 40% more recorded casualties. Most of those killed are likely to be low-ranking militants.
  • 126 named militants have so far been killed.
  • At least 1,114 people have been wounded


Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (52)

  • Frank
    Aug 11, 2011 - 9:39AM

    Hey! Pakistani Liberals. It’s party time!


  • Mirza
    Aug 11, 2011 - 9:53AM

    The report says “126 named militants among the dead since 2004. But as many as 168 children have also been killed among at least 385 civilians”
    This means in the last 7 years an average of 55 civilians are killed each year. This is a rather large loss of civilian life by any measure. However, the report clearly indicates that the targets have been militants and they have suffered most. These terrorists hide themselves among the population behind women and children. It is the duty of the local leaders to keep their area free of terrorists who can create problems for the safety of their own families.
    I would not welcome and host the terrorists in my home because of the drone strikes.
    Even though the death of 55 people a year is high, however, in Pakistan this number can be achieved in a day!
    A total of few hundred dead vs. tens of thousands of innocent Pakistani civilian’s death at the hands of terrorists is an easy choice. Unless Pakistani army stops these terrorists and drives them out of Pakistan the drone strikes would and should continue. As we say here “if you wouldn’t do it somebody else would do it”.


  • faraz
    Aug 11, 2011 - 9:55AM

    The army should shift tribals to safer areas, expel the militants, take control over the area, rehabilitate the tribals and carry out development projects. Or if they don’t want to expel their ‘strategic assets’, at least they should provide alternate place of accommodation to tribal. Where are those billions of dollars they are receiving? This thing isn’t going to end soon.


  • faraz
    Aug 11, 2011 - 9:59AM


    Did the liberals handover Shamsi airbase to US? And who specifically demanded drone strikes in South Waziristan? And who is the main beneficiary of the security based relations with US for past 6 decades?


  • Ashok
    Aug 11, 2011 - 10:11AM

    Strange. Looking back in pure numbers terms – West Pakistan had it made. During the first few decades of independence, it was given massive military and economic assistance by the West and reaped the economic benefits of lower level labor from East Pakistan. It had China as a supplier of economic and military equipment and also a hedge against all out frontal attack from India. Its per capita income levels, poverty levels, and resource levels were overwhelmingly in its favor compared to India (and many other countries). It greatly expanded its physical size by acquiring Balochistan (its largest and most mineral and energy resource rich province) and acquiring Gilgit Baltistan (forming a strategic connection that permanently blocks India’s expansion attempts to the north). A betting man in the 1940’s would easily place big money on West Pakistan over India (or even China/HK/Taiwan and many Central Asian republics). In addition, Pakistanis spoke English and had some level of infrastructure built by the British.

    Yet with news like this on a daily basis, I really have to ask, what happened? It seems to me that Pakistan is a case study on mismanagement, inadequate decision making and unchecked population growth.


  • biryani
    Aug 11, 2011 - 10:20AM

    40000 civilians n 7000 army men killed by US since this war started….. how much more?


  • ashok sai
    Aug 11, 2011 - 10:36AM

    This issue arises because of Cowardly act by Pakistan army, either it should have courage to shoot those drones and engage confrontation with the US or it should co-operate with the US in such a way that there is no civilian casualties.

    Sadly, these so called generals very happy to milk money from US and act in front of civilians, after all they have a country to play with, what you say Pakistani people ?


  • AKAfghan
    Aug 11, 2011 - 10:43AM

    1 Militant = 100 Pakistanis


  • sharjeel rauf
    Aug 11, 2011 - 10:49AM

    america is doing us a huge favour by cleaning up our mess free of cost.thanks to the drones we don’t have to risk sending in our own soldiers to these dangerous areas and this saves us huge amount of taxpayer’s money as well.the americans need to increase the number of their drones so that more of these islamic fanatics should be killed.
    the religious fanatics want to take us back to the dark ages and unless we fight their evil ideology we’ll continue to have beheadings and stoning to death of women.


  • rehmat
    Aug 11, 2011 - 10:57AM

    The civilians that typically die are the terrorists own wife and kids. If a terrorist home is targetted by a drone, unclear how they would be saved. This is unfortunately the cowardly approach of the terrorists whether in FATA or Jammu and Kashmir – they use women and children as their shields.


  • Has
    Aug 11, 2011 - 11:18AM

    Can you count?
    Pakistani LIberals will not wake up untill drone strikes them.
    Have a look jerks.


  • Arindom
    Aug 11, 2011 - 11:38AM

    Good going Obama! clean up the terrorists!


  • saima abassi
    Aug 11, 2011 - 11:46AM

    @sharjeel rauf:

    we need drones for action against madrassas in our cities as well.we all saw how messy the whole operation at lal masjid got giving the media the chance to do propaganda in favor of the islamic fascists.the drones should take out the entire madrassa in one shot with no images of a siege or children running around.
    if nothing is done about the religious fascism being spread in madrassas,our country will be completely destroyed.


  • dr Aslam beig
    Aug 11, 2011 - 12:01PM

    not enough we need 4 drone attacks a day


  • Amir
    Aug 11, 2011 - 12:02PM

    @saima abassi: Why do you want U.S. to bomb Masjids and Madrassas. Dont you know that every Masjid and Madrassa has the Holy Quran. You want the Holy Quran to be burned by U.S. drone attacks? I have a feeling Americans and Indians are using Pakistani names to write these comments. I dont believe a Muslim can ever say what these people are saying in this comment section.


  • mf hussain
    Aug 11, 2011 - 12:09PM

    They shoulf increase the nto four strikes a day


  • faraz
    Aug 11, 2011 - 12:12PM


    I think taliban have killed 40,000 civilians and 7000 soldiers


  • Engr.Mohsin Raza
    Aug 11, 2011 - 12:16PM

    Some people suggesting further drone strikes in their comments are more probably Americans and Indians with Pakistani aliases. The articles shows the mirror to drone attacks. Killing civilians will never help US in anyway, no matter what agenda they have in this region. Paying money to shed innocent blood is an unlawful trade and sooner or later, Washington will pay the price as it is continuously raising public opinion against Obama Admin. in Pakistan as well as US.


  • Cheema
    Aug 11, 2011 - 12:17PM

    All of you fools thinking that US is spending all these huge dollar amounts to safeguard you people!!! So silly to believe in this…


  • Zainab Ali
    Aug 11, 2011 - 12:32PM

    Drones have not been successful in eliminating the real threat. In addition, the collateral damage is so high that it minimizes their effectiveness.


  • Uza Syed
    Aug 11, 2011 - 12:42PM

    @Frank: You bet it is! However —– One strike every four days not enough, it seems frequency must be increased until the last fundo like yourself is taken eliminated from among us and consigned to the destionation of your choice. Go to paradise and play hell there.


  • John
    Aug 11, 2011 - 12:47PM

    A drone strike a day, keeps terrorist away…:)


  • amin rizwan
    Aug 11, 2011 - 12:52PM

    Why our great army is showing concerns on Karachi issues only and not on Drone attacks by America (external enemy)? They should forget their supramacy on our civil government and internal political affairs of government and do their duty to stop these drone attacks. We shall only salute our army if they stop America by force to do such drone attacks on civillians and shall hate our army (paid pakistan guards) if they keep on threatening political system (democracy) issuing press releases time to time. This is the voice of Pakistani nation and should be heard our power hungry generals.They should keep Musharraf as role model of humiliation in their minds while thinking fior any new aventure. All problems in our country are because of earlier army rulers.


  • M.Akthar
    Aug 11, 2011 - 1:03PM

    Army & ISI can & cant dos:-
    What Army & ISI can do:-
    a. Run bakeries and marriage halls.
    b. Make popcorn.
    c. Run Real Estate & build highway business.
    d. Sell Airbases (like Shamsi Airbase).
    e. Sell civilians (like Dr Aafia & other civilians as militants).
    f. Abduct and kill civilian activists like HuT.
    g. Make Deals, Honor & let go people like Raymond Davis.
    h. Watch & enjoy slaughter of innocent muslims in neighborhood (China & India).
    i. Make deals with Saudi/Jordan/Bahrain to rent our Army.
    j. Sell Nukes. & Arrest & lock the father of the Islamic Bomb AQ Khan and blame him for everything

    What Army & ISI cant do:-
    a. Win Any War.
    b. Go after Drones or NATO forces.
    c. Control Violence in Karachi & other cities.
    d. Go after militant groups like LeJ, AQ etc
    e. Find Osama
    f. Switch on Radar
    s allowing free movement of military aircraft from all countries.

    What we should do:-
    Buy Burqas & Chudis to our Army & ask them to make roti`s at home. Let them atleast not loot our money to buy expensive toys which cannot stop drones or heliptopers keeping the nation hungry.
    Solution: Establishing Islamic Caliphate through HuT without bounderies in the muslim world.


  • adnan
    Aug 11, 2011 - 1:06PM

    Drones have not been successful in eliminating the real threat. In addition, the collateral damage is so high that it minimizes their effectiveness.

    and besides if they want to kill inocent people then they might aswell drop a A bomb and get it over with

    why do it so slow and painfully


  • Amir
    Aug 11, 2011 - 1:08PM

    @Engr.Mohsin Raza: I agree. Indians are too obsessed about Pakistan and they want Americans to achieve their goals in our region. Drone attacks are unpopular all across Pakistan from Peshawar to Quetta to Karachi to Lahore. Who would want Pakistani Muslim men, women, and children to be killed by American drones more than anyone else? Indians.


  • michael whittaker
    Aug 11, 2011 - 1:18PM

    Remember one thing…..! Drone attacks are for terrorists and terrorism eradication. Think for while If U.S would have not carried out drone attacks then today Pakistan would be another Afaghanistan, Terrorists had to take control of Islamabad and then what……….


  • Engr. Mohsin Raza
    Aug 11, 2011 - 1:24PM

    What are you doing mr. moderator? You are unable to filter away Indians and Americans posting comments using Pakistani Aliases.


  • Pragmatist
    Aug 11, 2011 - 1:34PM

    Cooking up numbers will not make it true.


  • muhammad farhan aziz
    Aug 11, 2011 - 1:37PM

    @amir.you are using the same pathetic excuse that the terrorists use.just keeping holy books in a place used for promoting terrorism doesnt exclude it as a valid target.if religious terrorists are hiding in madrassas then they have to be targetted ,no matter what else is there.


  • M.Akthar
    Aug 11, 2011 - 1:42PM

    I 100% accept with amin rizwan that most problems are being of our Army rules but our politicians are also useless fellows. The best way is the Islamic way which is stated in the Holy Quran / Hadith – “Establishing the Islamic Caliphate”.


  • Asif
    Aug 11, 2011 - 1:50PM

    In the American Consititution it says All men are created equal. So I tell Obama why he is violating this very basis upon which his country was founded? Why he does not conduct same drone strike in his own country if some intelligence verified some terriorist location in some remote area in his own country without regard how many other american civilians that may be there would be killed as well?


  • Aug 11, 2011 - 2:05PM

    And WE are again to Celebrate another Independence Day :(


  • Cheema
    Aug 11, 2011 - 2:38PM

    Seems like Pakistan Army General want to safeguard borders, not any thing inside borders…


  • Proud-Paki
    Aug 11, 2011 - 2:40PM

    @sharjeel rauf… Yeah right! Uncle SAM is here do us favors. This is what they have been doing in past 64 years.I think if we keep getting such favors for few more years, Pakistan would be history. With friends like Uncle SAM we dont need an enemy.


  • Outspoken
    Aug 11, 2011 - 3:08PM

    You ripe what you sow. Did anybody expect anything else? Get it straight. USA has come to kill. So it will kill. Pak govt can best be like a sheep. But it has already put the ordinary pakistani on the alter. So they are getting killed. Pak should not have dared the US by trying to milk it of aid.After OBL incident in Abottabad the table has turned.Who can save the ordinary Pakistani now. You should have thought about this before sheltering OBL. After Abottabad Obama said if he has actionable intelligence USA will go in again. Did anybody from the pak govt answer this in a way a man would like to answer. No. So that is it.Recommend

  • Ahmed Shah
    Aug 11, 2011 - 3:12PM

    Pardon my confusion but what are these ‘statistics’ based on? Do you know the names of these 2,050 individuals killed, their background or even their nationalities? Are we to believe that without any boots on the ground, without any local intelligence and lack of any proper investigation in any of these strikes that you know ‘for sure’ who it is that was actually killed?

    Regardless of the authenticity of the figures, you state that you killed 168 children and 126 militants. So more often than not, you kill a child in the hope of killing a militant.

    Chris Woods, please take a step back and ask yourself, who am I kidding?


  • Javed
    Aug 11, 2011 - 3:27PM

    @Frank: Is your full name Frank Fundo


  • Javed
    Aug 11, 2011 - 3:32PM

    @M.Akthar: Your solution is a nightmare to say the least.


  • Muhamamd Ilyas Ansari
    Aug 11, 2011 - 3:33PM

    Dear Saima Ababsi.
    I find no difference in your comment with the comments of Adolf Hitler.
    what if someone say that your home should be hit by drone attack which kill you and your all beloved ones? Behave like a Muslim and Human if you are.At least I will be among those who will feel saddened if you and your family is hit by drone attack.
    God bless Pakistan .


  • Hanif
    Aug 11, 2011 - 3:36PM

    Those who kills pakistanies in karachi for political reasons will happily allow US to kill innocent people in FATA… Who else can we ask in pakistan to help us against the injustice of America.? is there anyone who can help these Pakistanies..


  • mourinho
    Aug 11, 2011 - 3:57PM

    way to go obama,keep pumelling them.


  • Ali
    Aug 11, 2011 - 4:07PM

    Kill 126 militants + 3000 more innocents…

    Collateral damage will end this country soon.Recommend

  • John
    Aug 11, 2011 - 4:28PM

    @proud-paki…. How funny.. Do you still think america is your friend????


  • Faisel Hafeez
    Aug 11, 2011 - 4:56PM

    “The USA is having fun with the joystick, playfully concentrating on droning the Pakistani tribal areas to death.”


  • Khalid Ahmed
    Aug 11, 2011 - 7:44PM

    @Engr. Mohsin Raza

    Can’t Muslims live outside Pakistan? Or does Pakistan hold patent over Muslim names? Wake up, this is a public website accessible to all.


  • Aftab Kenneth Wilson
    Aug 11, 2011 - 8:05PM

    It is a well known fact that people associated with terrorist activities whether in the tribal areas of our country or Afghanistan always move around with their multiple wives and children not less than a dozen or above. In many cases they also use them as human shields. It is the duty of the elders in their areas to block the entry of these lethal elements. These tactics by these elements has been widely reported only in English news papers both local and foreign.


  • Umair Waheed Sheikh, Khayban e Hafiz,IBA Karachi
    Aug 11, 2011 - 8:43PM

    Drone attacks are good. Atleast they kill the militants. What about the carnage these militants might have done had not been killed? Do you care to write about that? There is some collateral damage but it the people who are responsible for it. Atleast you should know who is your neighbour!


  • Uza Syed
    Aug 11, 2011 - 10:37PM

    A drone a day will keep terrorists away,
    Two drone a day will keep their supporters away,
    And four will ensure Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif JI
    From power far far away!


  • Mirza
    Aug 12, 2011 - 8:56AM

    @Uza Syed:
    U R funny! I like your comments.
    Thanks and regards,


  • Mubashir Amin
    Aug 12, 2011 - 7:40PM

    And why not. He did win the Noble Peace Prize!


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