2010, The Year of Assassination by Drones


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2010, The Year of Assassination by Drones

Annual Report on CIA’s Target Killing Campaign in Pakistan’s Tribal Area

Released in January 2011

For Soft Copy of this report please call 0321-4646374

Table of Contents

Table of Contents 2

Executive Summary 3

1.Statistical Overview of Drone Attacks in 2010 4

2.Most significant Deaths for the United States 6

3.Significant Death from Pakistani Perspective 7

4.From High Value Targets to Foot Soldiers 8

5.Frequency of Drone Attacks 8

6.Main Target North Waziristan 8

7.Single Deadliest Day 9

8.Flood Relief and Drone Attacks 9

9.Assassination Campaign Turned into Revenge Campaign? 10

10.Taliban’s Retaliation 10

11.Unreported Civilian Deaths 10

12.Question Mark on Militant Deaths 12

13.Reaction against Drone Attacks 13

14.Protest in United States 14

15.Recommendations 14

Annexure 16

References: 24

Executive Summary

The Conflict Monitoring Center (CMC), an independent research center focusing on anti-state militancy and related activities in South Asia, has prepared an annual report(2010) on drone attacks inside Pakistani territory. The report is based on the data collected from mainstream national and international media, e.g. CNN, NY Times, Al-Jazeera, Daily Dawn, The News, Daily Times, Geo News, Daily Express, Daily Ummat and other news organizations. The annual report shows an unprecedented increase in CIA’s assassination campaign against Al-Qaeda and Taliban. Initially it was aimed to decapitate Al-Qaeda and Taliban organizations by eliminating high value targets. Until start of 2008, the focus of the campaign remained the same but President Bush in his last year in office widened the campaign to hit the second and third tier of command structure of Al-Qaeda and Taliban. It was expected that President Barak Obama would review and change U.S. policy on drone attacks but he not only maintained it but also further intensified the assassination campaign and now CIA is killing even suspected militants. The agency relies on human intelligence and satellite images to ascertain the exact location of militants. It is unclear whether it counterchecks the human intelligence with other available means or not. The nature of the campaign is highly secretive and the agency has never admitted that it was carrying out drone attacks. It is because the agency wants to avoid legal consequences, as state sponsored assassination inside another sovereign country is illegal in international law.

The CIA carried out 132 drone attacks in the year 2010, exceeding the combined number of such attacks made in six years (from 2004 to 2009), i.e., 96. A total of 938 people were killed in 2010. The deadliest month was September in which 147 people were killed in 23 drone attacks. 17th December was the deadliest day of the year when 54 people were killed in Khyber Agency.

Civilian Casualties in drone attacks are a big concern for human right groups and peace activists. During the year 2010, only two incidents of civilian killings were reported by International media and one by a local newspaper. It shows control relay of body counts by the U.S and Pakistani Intelligence officials. None of the newspapers or TV Channels reported first hand information about casualties.

Most significant death from U.S. perspective was that of Al-Qaeda’s operational and financial chief Mustafa Abu Yazeed also known as Shaikh Saeed Al-Masri. He was Al-Qaeda’s No.3. From Pakistan’s perspective, most noteworthy death was that of Qari Hussain Mehsud who was believed to be mastermind of suicide attacks in Pakistan. Apart from few prominent commanders of Al-Qaeda and Taliban, most of the killed were ordinary suspected militants.

Although the drone attacks are highly controversial in Pakistan but there was no substantial reaction or protest in first ten months. In November, a tribesman from Waziristan served legal notices to CIA’s head Leon Panetta, U.S. defense Secretary Robert Gates and CIA’s Station Chief in Islamabad, Jonathan Banks. After registration of a case in a police station in Islamabad, CIA was forced to pull its local chief out of Islamabad. Pakistan’s leading political parties unanimously opposed drone attacks. Relatives of the victims of drone attacks staged two days protest in Islamabad in December. Protest is gaining momentum gradually. Anti-war activists also staged well-organized protest against Drone attacks outside CIA’s headquarters in Langley, United States.

CIA stepped up its assassination campaign at a crucial juncture of time when U.S. state department and Pentagon were trying to win hearts and minds of Pakistani people by participating in relief, rescue, and rehabilitation efforts in flood-affected areas. The intensification of drone attacks, sentencing of Dr. Afia Siddiqui and killing of Pakistani soldiers on a border posts were the three incidents occurred in September 2010, which collectively undermined winning of hearts and mind drive.

  1. Statistical Overview of Drone Attacks in 2010

Every day of the year 2010, witnessed killing of about 3 (2.6) people in drone attacks and every 3rd day of the year saw a drone attack in Pakistan. There has been an unprecedented increase in US drone attacks inside Pakistan in which as many as 938 people were killed. Special Activities Division of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the American premier spy agency, uses unmanned aerial vehicles (pilotless airplanes) for the target killing of commanders and foot soldiers of Al-Qaeda and Taliban. During the year 2010, CIA carried out 132 attacks. It was the deadliest year in terms of strikes and resultant fatalities since launching of the drone attack campaign in 2004. There were highest ever number of drone attacks in a year as their number in 2010 exceeded the combined total number of attacks carried out from 2004 to 2009. Deaths by drone attacks in 2010 are also touching the combined total deaths of previous six years. There were 96 drone attacks reported from 2004 to 2009 killing 1114 people. Nevertheless, the year 2010 alone witnessed 132 attacks and 938 fatalities.

Table 1 Yearly Comparison of Drone Attacks

Period/ Year

No. of Drone Attack

















Two thousand and fifty two people have been assassinated in 228 drone attacks since 2004.The drone campaign was intensified during last year of President Bush in office as there were 34 such attacks reported in 2008. It was expected that the newly elected President, Barak Obama, would review and change US policy on drone attacks. However, he not only maintained it but also further intensified the assassination campaign. In his first year in office, CIA struck 53 times inside Pakistan killing as many as 709 people. The campaign was increased to an unprecedented level in 2010, resulting in to highest number of attacks and ensuing killings. The first month of the year 2010 saw 107 deaths and the last month witnessed 117 deaths by drones.

The last four months of the year 2010, in particular, saw further intensification of drone attacks. September 2010 was the deadliest ever month since 2004. There were 147 people killed in 23 drone attacks in the month. It also witnessed the highest ever number of attacks in a single month in seven years long drone campaign. The second deadliest month of the year was December in which 126 people were killed in 16 drone attacks.

Table 2. Monthly Detail of Drone Attacks


Number of Drone Attack

Number of Deaths








































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