2011 saw a substantial decrease in drone strikes in Pakistan. According to numbers assembled by the New America Foundation, strikes fell from a high of 118 in 2010 to 70 in 2011 — a 40% decrease (there were no drone strikes in December because of an errant U.S. artillery strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers). Today, the New York Times reports on another bit of news that correlates with the decrease in drone strikes: fewer suicide bombings.
The kidnappings are continuing even as Pakistani security forces have seemed to blunt the militants’ ability to inflict mass casualties: suicide attacks fell by 35 percent in 2011, according to the annual report of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, while the number of people killed in attacks fell from 3,021 in 2009 to 2,391 last year.
But the lull may be temporary, experts warn, and meanwhile the militants are filling their coffers with ransom money.
I’m really curious who these experts are and what they base that on (especially if it’s more than just a feeling). Interestingly, too, the number and rate of kidnappings, which is the subject of the article, have remained relatively constant over time (Declan Walsh, the author, rightly notes that kidnapping for ransom has a very long history in Northwest Pakistan, in contrast to suicide bombing, which does not).
Still, correlation is not causation and all these numbers could be responding to things we just don’t know or see. Pakistanis, however, are drawing conclusions from this correlation, and it’s been driving public anti-American sentiment for quite some time now. Though policymakers might think the effects are worth the cost, the cost seems to have risen substantially, especially as Pakistan implodes on itself and American influence and capacity for constraining the outcome hits another all-time low. Is that worth it? We won’t know for a while, but it’s an awfully big gamble.
Chart comes from the New America Foundation’s drone tracker.