While there have been 43 well publicized American UAV missile attacks in Pakistan so far this year, there were 333 similar attacks in neighboring Afghanistan. The UAV attacks in Afghanistan are up a third compared to last year, while manned combat sorties in Afghanistan involving the use of weapons are down 16 percent. The reason for this is shift if economy and utility. The UAVs, which are remotely controlled by operators in the United States, are much cheaper to operate. Moreover, a UAV can stay in the air much longer without expensive air-to-air refueling. Crew fatigue is not a problem either, because the two (or three) person teams (a pilot and one or more observers) can be easily relieved as they are working from buildings in an air force base in the United States.
There are far more attacks in Afghanistan because the UAVs cover a much larger area. In Pakistan the CIA controlled UAVs are largely confined to small areas along the Afghan border. In fact, most of the attacks are made in North Waziristan (a small portion of the border and an area of 4,700 square kilometers containing 365,000 people). The areas of Afghanistan that the UAVs operate over are more than 30 times larger with over five million people. Of course North Waziristan is a notorious terrorist sanctuary that Pakistan refuses to shut down and that accounts for all the UAV attacks (that kill a lot of terrorists even the Pakistani government wants dead). Despite the UAV attacks, there are more Islamic terrorists per square kilometer in that small area than anywhere else on the planet. While all American air attacks in Pakistan are via UAV, in Afghanistan they are only nine percent of attacks. That’s up from 5-6 percent in each of the previous three years. Robots may not be taking over but remotely controlled aircraft, equipped with sensors that let you see what kinds of weapons people are carrying and details of their faces, are.
There are more UAVs being delivered and sent into action in Afghanistan. The U.S. Air Force wants to save money, and one way to do that is to pull combat aircraft out of Afghanistan and replace them with UAVs. As much as the air force, which is run by former combat pilots, wants to keep pilots employed, shrinking budgets make UAVs an option that cannot be ignored.