With tensions between the US and Pakistan high, and after a monthly record of 21 drone strikes in Pakistan in September, the US military continued its pursuit in Pakistan's troubled northwest - this time killing 18 militants.
The ongoing pursuit of Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan's ungoverned and mountainous northwest region has yielded a high degree of tension between the Pakistani government and NATO that led to the closing of a crucial border crossing into Afghanistan just days ago. However, US military planners believe the use of drones and of NATO aircraft has also led to disruption among Taliban and Al Qaeda camps that are operating widely in region.
The up-tick in US drone deployments appears to be in reaction to the threat of a coordinated Pakistan-oriented terror strike planned for European cities. Terrorism chatter has increased notably in the UK, Germany, and France.
"We are in constant contact with our colleagues abroad," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate panel in September, The Wall Street Journal reported. "We are all seeing increased activity by a more diverse set of groups and a more diverse set of threats. That activity, much of which is Islamist in nature, is directed at the West generally."
But the US military and its NATO allies do not have a free hand in Pakistan. After a recent NATO air strike in Pakistan mistakenly killed three Pakistani border guards, there has been open talk over the question of designating the relationship between Pakistan and NATO as one of ally or of enemy.
Regardless, the US believes it must move forward with hitting these militant targets. Two US drone attacks killed 18 militants on Saturday.
"In the first attack two missiles were fired at a house while in the second attack four missiles targeted a house and a vehicle. The death toll in the two attacks reached 18," an intelligence official told Reuters.