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Terrorism & Security

US drone attack kills 18 in restive North Waziristan, despite Pakistan protests

US missiles killed 18 suspected militants near the Afghan border, just a day after the Pakistan government summoned a US diplomat to protest the use of drone attacks.

By Staff writer / August 24, 2012

In this Aug. 5 photo, a Pakistani Taliban militant holds a rocket-propelled grenade at the Taliban stronghold of Shawal, in Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan along the Afghanistan border. US missiles killed 18 suspected militants in Pakistan along the Afghan border today, just one day after Pakistani authorities met with a United States diplomat to protest drone strikes in the country.

Ishtiaq Mahsud/AP

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Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.

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American missiles targeting suspected militants in Pakistan along the Afghan border killed 18 today, just one day after Pakistani authorities met with a United States diplomat to protest drone strikes in the country.

The US drone campaign has been a serious contributor of tension between the US and Pakistan, and today’s attacks were the fourth in one week, reports the Associated Press. All of this week’s attacks took place in North Waziristan, an especially restive area where the Pakistani military has yet to conduct any operations against militants.

Pakistan sees the use of drones as a violation of their sovereignty, but the US argues that drones are vital in combatting militants, including members of Al Qaeda and Taliban, active along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The drone strikes are unpopular in Pakistan for other reasons as well – many believe they kill mostly civilians, something the US disputes.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said yesterday that an unnamed American diplomat was told that drone strikes are “unlawful, against international law, and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” adding that the attacks are “unacceptable.” Pakistan has long been a vocal opponent of the drone strikes.

In 2010 the US conducted 117 drone strikes in Pakistan's border region, according to the Long War Journal. In 2011, that number dropped to 64, and there have been an estimated 33 so far this year, including today’s.

According to AP, despite the Pakistani government's public opposition to the drones, it has surreptitiously backed their use.

The [Pakistani] government is widely believed to have supported the attacks quietly in the past. That cooperation has come under pressure as the relationship between the two countries has deteriorated.

“This is a product of sleeping with the enemy,” wrote a reader in a comment on a story in the Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune on a drone strike earlier this week.

The debate over the use of drones is heated in the US as well. In an International Herald Tribune blog post this week, Mark McDonald explores whether drones are worth their cost – not just militarily, but socially and politically as well.

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