The unmanned drones – operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as part of its covert campaign against Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives holed up along Pakistan's tribal belt bordering Afghanistan – were back in action on Sunday night after a gap of 28 days; killing five suspected terrorists in South Waziristan.
The drones pounded a suspected Taliban compound near Wana, the main town of South Waziristan. This was the 11th drone attack in the tribal belt this year and the first since January 23; raising considerable speculation within the country about a possible link between the lull in the Predator's visitations and the ongoing stand-off between Pakistan and the U.S. over arrested American embassy employee Raymond Davis for killing two ‘armed' Pakistanis in ‘self-defence' on January 27 in Lahore.
While there was no official word from either side on the cause for the lull, there has been speculation about the Americans slowing down on this highly unpopular campaign to target terrorist havens in the tribal belt to contain the anti-Americanism that is in full flow following the Lahore shoot-out. Others maintained that this slowdown in the campaign – that has been in full steam since last year – was due to the snag in diplomatic ties as a result of which Pakistan was not sharing intelligence with the CIA for carrying out the drone strikes.
However, according to the Long War Journal – which has been keeping a track of the Predator campaign in Pakistan – there have been several pauses in drone attacks; the longest being 33 days. While North Waziristan has taken the brunt of the drone attacks – accounting for over 70 per cent strikes – South Waziristan comes second with 23 per cent of the Predators directed at this tribal agency. Other agencies have seen sporadic attacks.