Leiden Safety and Security Blog

Exploring the Aims and Impacts of The United States’ Drone Policy in Pakistan

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What are the strategic aims behind the United States' use of drones in Pakistan and to what extend do these aims and uses correspond with key observations made by scholars and experts in the field regarding the impact of drones in the struggle against terrorism?'

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’s or drones have been used in counterterrorism efforts against the Taliban in Pakistan since 2004 during the administration of George W. Bush. Recently under the command of President Barack Obama however, they are being used more frequently and to a greater extent in countering terrorism in volatile regions such as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the northern part of Pakistan. The high stakes and collateral damage of drone strikes necessitates a thorough overview of the topic and supporting literature.

The aim of the United States is three-fold, the defeat of Al Qaeda and groups that associate with it, the containment of domestic/local conflicts so they don't breed new enemies and the preservation of the continuing safety of the American people. Keeping these in mind, the fact that drones are the foremost weapon in the United States' arsenal in regards to strategic aims and while the use of drones in Pakistan might protect the American people from further attacks in the short run, they are not contributing towards the overall destruction of terrorist networks that could harm the United States worldwide. The negative impacts of this strategy far outweigh the positive elimination of terrorists in terms of the impact on diplomatic relations, the perception of the United States worldwide and international concerns of transparency and accountability.

My thesis aims to look into some of the positive and negative impacts drone strikes have in Pakistan along with providing an analysis of some of their outcomes in order to successfully evaluate the strategy and propose recommendations that can be used to mitigate some of the concerns raised, by aiming to increase transparency and accountability of the program as a whole.


Merhu has written her MSc-thesis at Leiden University on the use of drones against Taliban in Pakistan. In order to receive a copy of the thesis a request can be sent using the contact form.

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