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Drones in Pakistan

Front view of a predator drone

Case Overview

The United States has the opportunity to eliminate or capture a senior al-Qaeda leader in Pakistan. 

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The Situation

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States has pursued a vigorous campaign against terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network, the self-proclaimed Islamic State, and other terrorist groups and militants.  The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has credible evidence that a senior leader of al-Qaeda is meeting soon with other operatives, at a compound on the outskirts of a populous city in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) near the border with Afghanistan. The United States must decide whether to try to kill or capture the target—and if so, how. Each policy option—including a drone strike, a raid by special operations forces, a request that Pakistan act, and inaction—has costs and benefits for U.S. security and the U.S. Pakistan relationship. Drones, in particular, have become a core element of the U.S. counterterrorism strategy, but their use is controversial. 




  • Costs and benefits of U.S. counterterrorism tools 
  • Debates surrounding the U.S. use of drones 
  • Trust and mistrust between the United States and its counterterrorism partners 
  • Threat posed by al-Qaeda 

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