As part of an escalating offensive against extremist targets in Pakistan, the US has deployed its highly sophisticated Predator drone aircraft to the areas along the border with Afghanistan.

This comes as the Bush administration increased the priority given to the Pakistan campaign, turning towards more unilateral operations after years of deferring to Pakistani authorities.

To show the seriousness of the mission, the US has even pulled some of the drones out of deployment in other conflict zones, including Iraq.

Pakistani forces have complained that US raids frequently kill civilians in addition to militants and say that their own campaign had killed hundreds of insurgents in the last month, making the US raids unnecessary.

The deployment of the Predator drones, highly sophisticated unmanned surveillance aircraft that can carry hellfire missiles and laser guided rockets, has already made itself felt with multiple attacks being reported along the eastern border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

On Monday, two US Predator drone aircraft were reported to have attacked the base of a top Taliban commander in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area, killing between 14 and 20 people.

The drones have become a powerful part of the US arsenal, allowing for the tracking of human targets even when they are inside buildings or otherwise hidden from surveillance.

The technology is operated remotely by pilots based in the US who now have the ability to strike precisely based on a bank of computer images and data, which accurately confirm identity and exact location.

By Daniel Garrun