One thing you can applaud President Obama for and that is his massive increase in the use of drones to attack al-Qaeda and Taliban targets - even if they're hiding in Pakistan. We have successfully hurt the terrorist leadership and have kept them on the run. This is no small victory and it is due not only to the technical wizardry of our drones and the competence of the military, but also our reliance on tips from ordinary Afghans regarding the whereabouts of safe houses.
Now, thanks to a death squad known as the Khorasan Mujahedin, those tips may begin to dry up. The terrorists seize villagers who they accuse of helping the US and take them away - most are never seen again.
Pakistani officials and tribal elders maintain that most of those who are abducted this way are innocent, but after being beaten, burned with irons or scalded with boiling water, almost all eventually "confess." And few ever come back.
One who did was a shop owner in the town of Mir Ali, a well-known hub of militant activity.
A band of Khorasan gunmen strode up to the shop owner one afternoon last fall, threw him into one of their cars and drove away, said a relative who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. They took him to a safe house being used as a lockup for others the group suspected of spying for the drone program.
For the next eight weeks, they bludgeoned him with sticks, trying to get him to confess that he was a drone spy. He wasn't, said the relative. Unable to determine whether he was guilty, his captors released him to another militant group, which set him free 10 days later.
"In the sky there are drones, and on the ground there's Khorasan Mujahedin," said the relative. "Villagers are extremely terrorized. Whenever there's a drone strike, within 24 hours Khorasan Mujahedin comes in and takes people away."
It is probable that going after the death squad will not be a high priority either for departing US troops or the Agfhan army, who face far more difficult challenges than protecting a few villagers. Only those Afghans who can't resist the allure of $1,000 for tips that pan out will continue to help our drone targeting.
And that probably means fewer missions that are successful.