The Pakistani public widely believes that American drone strikes there overwhelmingly hit civilians, not militants. However, an investigation of the 10 deadliest attacks over the past 18 months in the main militant region along the Afghan border shows that 70% of those killed were militants, according to an investigation by the AP. But, of the 56 civilians killed, 38 were from one major attack on March 17, meaning that the rest of the drone attacks have a civilian death rate of just more than 10%.
Pakistanis in the border region say that one way to distinguish whether those killed in a strike are militants is from the funeral—militants tend to be taken away from the attack site for burial elsewhere. The United States has led more than 280 drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal region since 2004. US officials declined comment on the strikes, but others were still critical of the AP's findings. "The bigger issue here is the covert nature of the program, the complete lack of any transparency and accountability and the lack of information about how the US distinguishes a militant from a civilian," says one lawyer who studies civilian casualties in Pakistan. (Read more Pakistan stories.)