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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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April 12th, 2013
06:21 PM ET

Is U.S. drone policy creating more terrorists than it's killing?

A few years ago the Taliban held sway here in the Swat Valley a few hours drive from Pakistan's capital. Now, the valley is home to the next generation of jihadists.

We visited a classroom where young boys had come to be de-radicalized. Boys as young as eight had been trained to be child suicide bombers and killers. They come from poor families, and were weaned on Taliban propaganda, not about bin Laden, but U.S. drone strikes, according to a school official who hid her face during our interview, fearing Taliban attack.

The Taliban "drill into them a hatred against the Americans and the drones, they talk about the Americans conducting the drone attacks and killing civilians," said the school director of the Sabaoon School.

The drones operate out of U.S. bases in neighboring Afghanistan, and according to the White House, target al Qaeda and Taliban hiding in Pakistan's tribal border region - not civilians.

Karim Khan, who is from that tribal region, tells CNN his brother and son were killed in a drone strike in late 2009.

"They were both government employees, they were not involving in any terrorists acts," said Khan.

He is suing the CIA, but given the chance, says he would take revenge on those responsible.

"I will kill them if Allah give me this opportunity, I will kill them. Because they are responsible for killing my brother and my son," said Khan. "I will kill them because they are criminal."

Lawyer Shezad Akbar represents a hundred families like Khan's. Of an estimated 2,000 or more killed in Pakistan, upwards of 200 are thought to be civilians.

"Drones are creating not just one generation but generations of jihadists, because if you kill a father, his son will come and then if you kill his son, his grandson will come, and this is what is happening," said Akbar.

At a Taliban training camp in the tribal area, filmed exclusively for CNN, there is no shortage of recruits.

But no doubt drones are finding their targets, one building we visited was destroyed a few weeks later. Nine Taliban were killed in the strike, according to a journalist who visited the camp.

Taliban graves, for those killed in drone strikes, litter the area, but so do the low-tech camps. The drones sow fear but do not stop the training.

Drones are also impacting politics in Pakistan. Elections are a few weeks away. Candidate Imran Khan, a former international cricket star turned rising political light, says drones are a big part of his campaign. Pakistan's last parliament voted to block drone strikes, making them illegal under international law, but has been powerless to stop them.

"It makes the Pakistan army a collaborator of the Americans because the drones are killing the same people the Pakistan army is fighting," said Khan.

After ten years of drone strikes, the Taliban are more brutal than before. What was once called the war on terror is backfiring in Pakistan; the drone is despised.

"This might be an effective tool to win a battle but this is certainly a counterproductive tool - an illegal, and unlawful, and also counterproductive tool - to win the war," said former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

By the time the boys we visited are de-radicalized and old enough to vote, teachers hope they will choose democracy over terror. But as long as drones are striking, the classrooms here are unlikely to ever be empty.

As drones are increasingly used in other parts of the world, Pakistan is fast becoming the test case for their long-term use. The experience here raises many questions. Not just about the legality, but the long-term effect; the use of drones may be winning the battle, at the expense of extending the war.

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