Whilst much debate has focused on the ethics, legality and civilian costs of drone technology, little attention has been given to the broader repercussions US drone strikes have had on Pakistan as a whole in the last 11 years.
Despite not yet entering into force, the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has succeeded in almost eliminating nuclear weapons testing and in establishing a robust international monitoring and verification system. A breakthrough in its ratification by the few hold-out states could have important positive repercussions for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or nuclear disarmament in the Middle East.
This week marks 10 years since the first reported US drone strike in Pakistan. It has also seen the resumption of US drone strikes in the country following a five-month pause. Considering the length of time the CIA-led programme has been running, a number of questions deserve consideration: namely, how effective has the decade long covert drone programme been in Pakistan and what impact have drones had on wider Pakistani society? As the military technology for remote-control warfare spreads, there is a need to question whether drones provide significant tactical advantage or whether their proliferation could lead to greater long-term global insecurity.
Strikes by unmanned combat air vehicles, or armed drones, have become the tactic of choice in US counterterrorism efforts in Yemen, Somalia and, the topic of current controversy, Pakistan. The lack of transparency, dubious effectiveness, civilian casualties and negative consequences for US national security being highlighted by current debate means that Washington needs to re-evaluate its approach.
The recent walkout by Egyptian negotiators at UN talks have demonstrated that, like a building with rotten foundations, the nuclear non-proliferation regime is far less stable than many believe it to be. Egypt’s actions make clear that anything less than a regime specifically geared towards addressing the reasons why some states seek nuclear weapons is a regime existing on borrowed time.