Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2017
Created by Bill Roggio
Since 2004, the US has been conducting a covert program to target and kill al Qaeda and Taliban commanders based in Pakistan’s lawless northwest. The program has targeted top al Qaeda leaders, al Qaeda’s external operations network, and Taliban leaders and fighters who threaten both the Afghan and Pakistani states.
The charts below look at the following: 1) the number of US airstrikes inside Pakistan per year; 2) civilian casualties vs. Taliban/al Qaeda casualties; 3) the distribution of strikes over time by tribal agencies; 4) the overall distribution of strikes, by tribal agencies; 5) the distribution of strikes over time by territories targeted; 6) the overall distribution of strikes, by territories targeted; and 7) the number of high value targets killed in territories managed by individual Taliban commanders.
The data is obtained from press reports from the Pakistani press (Daily Times, Dawn, Geo News, The News, and other outlets), as well as wire reports (AFP, Reuters, etc.), as well as reporting from The Long War Journal. Given the Taliban’s control of the areas where strikes occur, and a dearth of reporters in those areas, the exact numbers for casualties are difficult to know. The numbers below are estimates based on press reporting.
For a list of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders thought to have been killed in the attacks, see LWJ report, Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan 2004 – 2017.
This page was last updated onWednesday, June 14, 2017, 12:51 pm Eastern. These seven charts will be updated when information about prior or new strikes comes to light.
The US ramped up the number of strikes in July 2008, and has continued to regularly hit at Taliban and Al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan. There have been 396 strikes total since the program began in 2004; 385 of those strikes have taken place since January 2008.
Since 2006, there have been 2,813 leaders and operatives from Taliban, Al Qaeda, and allied extremist groups killed and 158 civilians are estimated to have been killed. Data for 2004 and 2005 are not available at this time.
Over the past six years, the strikes have focused on two regions: North and South Waziristan. Over the past two years, there has been a dramatic shift in the location of the strikes. In 2009, of the strikes have taken place in North Waziristan and 51% in South Waziristan. In 2010, 89% of the strikes have taken place in North Waziristan and 6% in South Waziristan.
Of the 396 strikes since 2004, 71% have hit targets in North Waziristan, and 23% have hit targets in South Waziristan.
The majority of the attacks have taken place in the tribal areas administered by four powerful Taliban groups: the Mehsuds, Mullah Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, and the Haqqanis. In 2010, there was a dramatic shift in strikes to tribal areas administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadar.
Mullah Nazir and Waliur Rehman are based in South Waziristan; the Haqqanis, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, and Abu Kasha al Iraqi are based in North Waziristan; Hakeemullah Mehsud is based in Arakzai; and Faqir Mohammed is based in Bajaur. Two bases operated by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar were hit in South Waziristan. For 12 of the strikes, territorial control has not been reported.
The Pakistani government considers Nazir (who has been killed in a US drone strike), the Haqqanis, Bahadar, and Hekmatyar to be ‘good Taliban’ as they do not carry out attacks against the Pakistani state. All of these Taliban factions shelter al Qaeda and various other terror groups.