A recently-released study from the New America Foundation finds that after inheriting the drone program from President George W. Bush, President Obama has dramatically escalated the number of unmanned air strikes in Pakistan by U.S. Predator and Reaper drones. The U.S. has made 43 strikes in Pakistan in 2009 -- only two of which occurred while Bush was still in office -- compared to 34 in all of 2008. While the drones have eliminated some top terrorist targets, there is concern that the robotic strikes are alienating Pakistani citizens and handing devastating propaganda victories to the Taliban, which uses each strike, and its associated killing of innocent civilians -- to drive up popular outrage against the U.S. The Foundation's study estimates that since 2006, drone strikes have killed between 750 and 1,000 Pakistani civilians. America's top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, in his August assessment of the war, wrote, "Pre-occupied with protection of our own forces, we have operated in a manner that distances us -- physically and psychologically -- from the people we seek to protect. ... In addition, we run the risk of strategic defeat by pursuing tactical wins that cause civilian casualties or unnecessary collateral damage. The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily, but we can defeat ourselves."
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