Altitudes of Imperialism

What a century of aerial bombardment in Waziristan tells us about the CIA’s decade-old drone programme

A pre-strike surveillance image from a drone in North Waziristan, taken on 19 January 2010.
The Washington Post / Getty Images
A pre-strike surveillance image from a drone in North Waziristan, taken on 19 January 2010.
The Washington Post / Getty Images
A post-strike surveillance image from a drone in North Waziristan, taken on 19 January 2010.. The Washington Post / Getty Images A post-strike surveillance image from a drone in North Waziristan, taken on 19 January 2010.. The Washington Post / Getty Images
A post-strike surveillance image from a drone in North Waziristan, taken on 19 January 2010.
The Washington Post / Getty Images

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.

Don't want to read further? Stay in touch

  • Free newsletters. updates. and special reads
  • Be the first to hear about subscription sales
  • Register for Free

    Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar is an associate professor of history at Brown University, and a faculty fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies.

    Keywords: drones CIA Pakistan British raj imperialism Waziristan Geneva Conventions Taliban
    COMMENT