Last Thursday President Obama, flanked by an array of senior military officers, stood in front of the media at the Pentagon to announce a new US military plan. The new defence plan is aimed at shaping the US military, as Obama put it, “in light of the changing geopolitical environment and our changing fiscal circumstances”. While numerous columns have been written about the plan, it has been summed up neatly by more than one commentator as a future of ‘drones, special ops and cyber warware’.
The US has launched two major wars over the past decade, spending billions of dollars on putting thousands of boots on the ground. In these more strained financial times however a less expensive (financially at least) way of waging future wars is needed and armed unmanned drones are seen as the way forward. By cutting the number of troops and ground equipment, and using ‘remote warfare’ – launching weapons from drones thousands of miles away the US will be able to continue to maintain its military presence but at cut price. Or so the theory goes. The devil, as always, is in the detail but don’t be surprised when the US military budget is released next month to see – amidst all the headlines of military cuts – an increase in funding for drones.
Meanwhile the ‘pause’ in US drone strikes in Pakistan since mid-November continues but maybe not for much longer.
US drone strikes have been suspended since the US killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in an airstrike, causing outrage amongst the Pakistani public and a crisis in relations between the US and Pakistani governments.
However a propaganda campaign is now underway to get the drone strikes reinstated. US officials have been briefing the main US press that the pause is harmful and allowing militants to re-group and operate freely while in Pakistan the ground is being prepared for the reinstatement of US strikes with ‘sources’ telling the Pakistan media that ‘fresh terms of engagements’ are being agreed between the governments that will see a resumption of the strikes. Bizarrely a petition has also been started on change.org calling on the US (and UK!) government to restart the drone strikes but so far only 27 people have signed up.
So it seems that both in the short-term and long-term more drone strikes are coming. An unhappy New Year indeed.