Although Wikileaks has only released a small amount of US diplomatic cables so far – the full release is expected later this week – there has already been some significant information about the use of armed drones. [Also see list of cables released so far on Guardian website)
US drone strikes in Pakistan
Despite repeatedly denying that it allows the US to carry out drone strikes on its territory many believe that, in private, the Pakistani government and military do in fact allow the attacks. These suspicions appear confirmed by a cable reporting Pakistani PM as saying “I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”
Another cable reveals that Pakistan has allowed US special forces to be embedded into the Pakistan military to help direct the CIA’s drone strikes. This will be extremely controversial within Pakistan. While some US forces have been undertaking training work in Pakistan since 2008, this revelation will be extremely embarrassing for the Pakistani military and, as the Guardian reports “permission for the active combat deployment almost certainly came with the personal consent of the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani.”
A third cable quotes a local FATA official as supporting the drones strikes “as they were surgical and clearly hitting high value targets…” and “ “everyone knew that they only hit the house or location of very bad people.” However a recent poll suggests that three-quarters of FATA residents oppose the US drone strikes.
A leaked cable has confirmed that it was a US drone strike in south Yemen in December 2009 that killed 41 local residents. Yemen had claimed it was their forces who undertook the attack but as the New York Times reported:
“We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Mr. Saleh said, according to the cable sent by the American ambassador, prompting Yemen’s deputy prime minister to “joke that he had just ‘lied’ by telling Parliament” that Yemen had carried out the strikes.
In a press release Amnesty International has called on the US government to:
Investigate the serious allegations of the use of drones by US forces for targeted killings of individuals in Yemen and clarify the chain of command and rules governing the use of such drones. Ensure that all US military and security support given to Yemen, and all US military and security operations carried out in Yemen, are designed and implemented so as to adhere fully with relevant international human rights law and standards, and that such human rights standards are made fully operational in training programmes and systems of monitoring and accountability.
Drones: Toys for the boys
As Danger Room puts it, armed drones are on every military’s Christmas list at the moment.
Several cables report the growing desire for Predator and Reaper drones. For example Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, after reporting that he was worried about the growing strength of Iran reportedly said “That’s why we need it first…. give me Predator B.”
Turkey too wants the Predator drone with the Chief of the Turkish General Staff, General Ilker Basbug, saying it was urgent that they received the drone to make up for the decreasing US presence in Iraq.
With much less than 1% of the cables so far being releases, we are sure there will be plenty more information about the use of armed drones coming from Wikileaklsover the next few weeks.