In this article in Civil Wars, my colleagues Talat Farooq, Scott Lucas, and I ask whether US drone strikes caused the unravelling of the Pakistani conflict settlement process between the government and the TTP in 2013-14. This has been a much-debated, yet so far inconclusive, issue among policy makers and activists.

Our analysis draws on extensive fieldwork, including 30 interviews with current and former politicians and members of the Pakistani security services, as well as diplomats, tribesmen, journalists and analysts, and a survey of 400 IDPs from North and South Waziristan. We present strong evidence of ‘multiple and conjunctural causation’ of the fate of the 2013-14 Pakistani settlement process, in which the effects of leadership decapitation, civilian casualties, and loss of legitimacy and credibility as a negotiation partner by both the government and the TTP  interacted in the context of specific social, political and cultural characteristics of a tribal society. We find that drone strikes ‘produced’ some of these factors, but not all.

This suggests four concrete policy implications for the impact of abandoning and/or rethinking the use of drones, the conditions under which either of these may have positive effects for a future peace process, and the trade-offs involved concerning other objectives of the drone campaign, especially US counter-terrorism.

This article is an open-access publication.