After a brief lull, US drone attacks have again resumed in the tribal areas of Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan. Four people were killed in a US drone attack in the Kurram Agency along the Pak-Afghan border on 15September 2017. According to the Political Administration of Kurram Agency, the drone targeted the house of Maulvi Mohib, who is reportedly linked with the Haqqani Network in Ghuz Ghari village. This was the third drone attack this year in Pakistan’s tribal area. The first US strike under the Trump administration killed two men riding a motorbike in the Kurram Agency in March, while the second suspected attack happened in late April in North Waziristan. On 16 and 17October2017 more drone attacks were carried out along the Pak-Afghan border inside Afghanistan, in which about 25 militants belonging to the Taliban and Haqqani network were killed. The frequency of US drone attacks inside Pakistan has diminished over the past few years. Obviously fewer targets mean fewer drone strikes. Pakistan has managed to clear its territories of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) insurgents and al Qaeda militants to a large extent. Therefore the need for drones attack has petered out. If a few wanted and known militants are lurking in tribal areas the drones can wrap up the operation by eliminating those elements in an effective manner. The frequency of US drone attacks inside Pakistan has diminished over the past few years. Obviously fewer targets mean fewer drone strikes. Pakistan has managed to clear its territories of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan insurgents and al Qaeda militants to a large extent. Therefore the need for drones attack has petered out Nevertheless, the US drone campaign is a double-edged weapon. It kills the dreaded terrorists with great precision but at the same time it causes collateral damage. Though these drone attacks have been quite useful in annihilating the terrorists, TTP Chiefs Baitullah Mehsud and Hakeemullah Mehsud and about fifty other active TTP militants along with numerous Al-Qaeda militants, the people of Pakistan have raised questions about the legality of these attacks. Many consider these attacks a violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and an attack on the nation’s sovereignty. Besides the collateral damage caused in form of deaths of innocent men, women and children these attacks cause great resentment among the public and generates hatred. The very first known drone attack in Damadola in 2006 reportedly killed 80 innocent people. General Musharraf and his political cohorts had to pay heavily during the 2008 general elections as voters from areas as far away as Lahore expressed great resentment over these deaths by voting against Musharraf’s political allies. In the tribal areas, the reaction over the collateral damage caused by drone attacks has been more tangible. Baitullah Mehsud, the founding TTP Chief had claimed that each drone brought him three or four suicide bombers who were usually from the families of the drone’s victims. Some surveys show that resentment was not against the drone attacks but the deaths of innocent people. Resentment over drone attacks is not limited to Pakistanis. Many Americans also view it as illegal. They term it state-sponsored assassination and extra judicial killing. Many do not agree with the US officials who insist that ‘the government has the right to assassinate anyone, anywhere; who they believe poses a threat to America.’ According to the Los Angeles Times, the US government does not even know the identities of those whom it is slaughtering. Many legal experts have objected to the use of drone attacks to kill people anywhere in the world. In fact former US President Ronald Reagan had issued orders making it ‘illegal for anyone employed by or acting on behalf of the US Government to engage in, or conspire to engage in any form of assassination.’ But two decades later, President Bush lifted the ban on US assassinations just before 9/11 and allowed drone attacks under the legal auspices of its global war on terror. The legal sanction of drone attacks is derived from the 2001 Authorisation for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) which the US Congress passed just one week after 9/11. It empowers the president to ‘use all necessary and appropriate force’ to pursue those responsible for the terrorist attacks. The National Defence Authorisation Act of 2012 reaffirmed the president’s authority under the 2001 authorisation. It is claimed that drone attacks are carried out with the consent of the governments of the countries where the terrorists are targeted. If this is true, it at best solves issues regarding the violation of sovereignty but the matter of collateral damage still haunts the perpetrators and those who gave them consent. This must be addressed if the precise and effective use of drones against terrorists and insurgents is to be taken advantage of. It is claimed that drone attacks are carried out with the consent of the governments of the countries where the terrorists are targeted. If this is true, it at best solves issues regarding the violation of sovereignty but the matter of collateral damage still haunts the perpetrators and those who gave them consent The offense taken over the collateral damage can be soothed to some extent by paying compensation to the relatives of innocent victims of drone attacks as is paid for victims of terrorist attacks. It is important to carry out an audit of every victim through DNA tests to ensure who was killed and whether he or she had link with known terrorists. A committee comprising the members from intelligence agencies and headed by a judge of the High court should be constituted for this purpose. If the drone campaign continues without acknowledging collateral damage it may result in greater resentment and instability within the country. Insurgents and militants should not be allowed to take advantage of this yawning loophole in the drone strategy. The writer is Honorary Director Centre for Peace and Security Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Masters in International Security, War Studies Department, King’s College London. Tweets at N Elahi@Aaibak Published in Daily Times, October 24th 2017.