NATO commanders have asked the US to send more Predator drones to Libya to enable them to find more targets. After four months of airstrikes, NATO forces are having trouble locating new military targets. As one senior officer put it “It’s getting more difficult to find stuff to blow up…” So far the Pentagon has not made a decision on whether to grant the request as it will mean moving the drones from Iraq, Afghanistan and, as Pentagon spokesperson put it tactfully “counter-terrorism operations elsewhere.”
Meanwhile the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have released new figures related to British drone strikes in Afghanistan in response to a question from Green MP Caroline Lucas this week. The figures, which Defence Minister Nick Harvey says are of ‘weapons released’ are for the first time broken down annually, so we are able to fill in more details about the rate of use (see table below). No doubt on some occasions more than one weapon is “released” during individual attacks.
Also this week two British citizens were arrested in Herat in Afghanistan . Special forces raided the Hotel in which the couple, who are in their twenties and have dual nationality, were staying and they were flown to Kandahar airbase for interrogation. There will no doubt now be a legal battle of what happens to the pair. Clive Stafford Smith form the human rights organisation has offered to represent them. On at least two previous occasions British citizens in Afghanistan have been the subject of a drone strike. It is a step forward that this pair have been arrested rather than assassinated – particularly if as well may be the case, they were only visiting relatives.
We reported last month that France had announced that the UK and France were to delay a decision on the new joint drone by 12-18 months. This was something of a surprise as a decision to go ahead to develop the proposed drone was expected in the summer. France has now announced that it is in talks with Dassault Aviation to procure a version of the Israeli Heron TP drone as a ‘stopgap’ measure. This all smells very fishy and no doubt more will emerge over the coming weeks.