Drone strike hits tribal areas as US-Pakistan tensions rise

A US drone strike on Friday 15 September killed three men in the tribal area of Kurram, which lies on the border with Afghanistan, according to government and security officials as well as tribal sources.

The attack is the first since President Trump announced his new strategy for Afghanistan in a speech last month. In it he vowed to "no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations”, sparking concerns the drone war in the country may escalate.

Friday’s strike is reported to have hit a compound belonging to Maulvi Mohib, who sources in the Afghan Taliban have said is affiliated with the Haqqani Network. The Haqqani Network are believed to be behind numerous attacks in Afghanistan, including the devastating truck bomb that hit Kabul on May 31.

The strike was the fifth to have taken place this year. Strikes resumed in Pakistan in March, nearly two months after President Trump came into office, following a nine-month hiatus. They have been sporadic since their resumption, with the strike before the latest one hitting in mid-June.

All but one of the strikes have hit Pakistan’s tribal areas. On June 13, however, a strike was reported to have taken place in Hangu, located in the so-called settled areas of Pakistan. The strike was only the third outside the tribal areas in 429 strikes since 2004. It angered Pakistan’s military chief, who shortly after called on the US to share “actionable intelligence” with Islamabad and warned that unilateral actions, such as drone strikes, were “counterproductive”.

Tensions between the US and Pakistan have been escalating in recent months, as the US administration has been exploring ways to hardens its approach towards Pakistan. The US is said to be eyeing up several measures – including expanding the drone programme.

Photo: An MQ-1 Predator drone flies overhead during a training mission. By Senior Airman Christian Clausen