The suicide attack in Dir killed eight people including schoolgirls and injured 131 persons, most of them schoolgirls again. A New York Times report of February 4 puts the American casualties at three, all of them soldiers. Two American soldiers also got wounded. The casualties were the first among the 100 (approximate) members of a Special Operations Team that has been training Pakistans paramilitary, the Frontier Corps, for the last eighteen months in counter-insurgency techniques, intelligence-gathering and development assistance. The American service members serve under the overall command of Admiral Eric T. Olson, the head of the Special Operations Command. Captain Jack Hanzlik, a spokesman for the United States Central Command in Tampa, Fla., said that 12 other service members had been killed in Pakistan since Sept. 11, 2001. He said the three soldiers who died Wednesday had been assigned to a Special Operations command in Pakistan but they were not commandos from the elite Delta Force or Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets. According to Captain Hanzlik, the US has about 200 military service members in Pakistan. The Taliban claim that the killed US men belonged to the Blackwater, a claim that has been rejected by Richard Holbrook. However, the Taliban claim can not be ruled out altogether because the CIA operatives base their drone attacks on the intelligence gathered and supplied directly by the Americans or their (local) field agents on the ground who also mark the locations that are to be attacked. That necessitates the presence of a spy network on the ground and at the spot. It is really shocking that in addition to giving the Americans a free hand to rain missiles on our territory, the government permits their presence in such sensitive locations. Now we hear that the Americans are planning to almost double the frequency of drone attacks and more powerful drones are due anytime. Obviously, increase in drone attacks would be followed by more and more suicide attacks and bomb blasts which would further increase suffering of the already suffering people of our tribal areas who would then rise against the government in increasing numbers. S.R.H. HASHMI, Karachi, February 4.