Intelligence officials say that drone strikes are the most effective weapon in the fight against al-Qaeda. The statistics appear to bear them out. In the six months since President Obama expanded the programme in Pakistans lawless border region, the drones have killed as many as 500 militants, several senior figures among them. However, the strategy breeds a far more dangerous militancy than battlefield combat. Nobody knows how many civilians have been killed in drone attacks the US says as few as 20 out of 500 deaths in total; Pakistan says 700 civilians for only 14 senior militants killed. The truth, no doubt, lies somewhere between. Pakistanis have long warned that civilian deaths in drone attacks on its border regions are fuelling militancy there. The possibility that militants might retaliate on American soil was never factored into the programme. Faisal Shahzad is said to have told investigators that his attempt to bomb Times Square was meant to avenge civilian deaths in drone attacks on his native Pakistan and a increasing number of home-grown terrorists have cited that as a motivation. The drone programme, counter-insurgency experts have noted, has been a key factor in the rise of the Pakistan Taleban, the group that Shahzad approached and received training from after deciding to turn against his adopted home. CIA drone deaths in Pakistans tribal areas fuel militancy in a way that civilian deaths in aerial bombings over Afghanistan do not. Those are carried out by the US military, bound by stricter rules of engagement brought in by General Stanley McChrystal to avoid civilian casualties, but also by post-operative reporting procedures that investigate, apportion blame and compensate families for their loss. The clandestine CIA programme, by definition, does none of these things. (The Times)