IN JUNE 2004, Nek Mohammad was eating dinner with four others, including two boys, in the courtyard of a family home in south Waziristan, when a Hellfire missile plunged from the air and killed them all, leaving a six-by-six-foot crater in the centre of the compound. A former Taliban fighter, Mohammad was wanted by the Pakistan Army. The attack that killed him is now regarded as the very first US Central Intelligence Agency drone strike in Pakistan.
This June, therefore, marked a decade of the CIA’s drone programme in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the borderland between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The ghastly anniversary coincided with Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a major military offensive against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Waziristan, which has seen more drone strikes than any other area in the region. The CIA’s unmanned planes and the Pakistan Air Force are important parts of the ongoing operation, which was launched in response to an 8 June militant attack on Karachi airport. The assault has driven more than 450,000 people from their homes, in blistering summer heat.