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U.S. Resumes Drone Strikes In Pakistan

Pakistani officials say the United States launched a drone strike early Wednesday morning for the first time since November. The AP says the drone strike killed four in North Waziristan, which is close to the Afghan border and has been a hot spot for U.S. strikes.

If you remember, in November an airstrike near the Afghan border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and unleashed public outrage against the U.S. The NATO attack also soured already frayed diplomatic relations between the two countries. It even led Pakistan to close its Western border to Afghanistan, effectively stopping an important supply route for coalition troops. The U.S. issued a report saying it was all a tragic mistake, but Pakistan rejected those claims.

The AP reports that lull in strikes was meant to deescalate the situation, but the fresh attack "pushed strained ties between the two nations close to collapse, Pakistani intelligence officials said Wednesday."

Reporting from Islamabad, NPR's Julie McCarthy told Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep that it is still unclear what the repercussions of this strike will be.

"We may be seeing an effort to downplay this," said Julie. "The military had nothing to offer on this today. The government in Pakistan, for its part, has many things hanging ... and a re-igniting of anti-American protests on the streets is really not what they need now. In fact all of this — the NATO supplies, the drones, the Pakistani backlash on the street — has everything to do with the endgame next door in Afghanistan. And the militants and the government are each trying to figure out their role in that."

Reuters has a bit more on today's missile attack:

"'I think we were expecting the drone strikes after a long break," said Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies. 'There were even a few reports were coming from the last two, three days that they are going to be resumed.' ...

"A source in Washington confirmed that a U.S.-operated drone had been fired at a militant target in Pakistan on Wednesday. The source said no well-known militants were believed to have been targeted or wounded in the attack.

"Drones armed with missiles have played a significant role in U.S. counter-terrorism operations as the Obama administration winds down the war in Afghanistan and Washington's focus expands to militant havens in countries including Pakistan."

Earlier this month, The New York Times explored the lull in-depth and quoted C.I.A. officials and diplomats saying it was offering "greater freedom of movement to an insurgency that had been splintered by in-fighting and battered by American drone attacks in recent months."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.