Drone strikes widening? Mystery airstrikes reported in Mali and the Philippines

This week we have seen a US drone strike in Pakistan which was reported to have killed six people (or ‘militants’ as those killed by drones are normally labelled) and a strike in Yemen which was reported to have killed three “suspected al-Qaida militants” on the outskirts of Aden. Such strikes have become almost routine, even though international condemnation is growing with both UN representatives  and former US president Jimmy Carter  speaking out in recent days.

Less routine was a “mystery” strike on a convoy of trucks in Northern Mali which was also reported this week.  According to the Magharebia website (which it should be noted is supported by United States Africa Command) seven “terrorists” of a brigade linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) were killed while several others were injured.  US intelligence officials contacted by the Long War Journal would neither confirm nor deny US involvement in the strike.

The airstrike echoed that of a similar ‘mysterious’ airstrike in the Philippines in February 2012 when 15 people were killed including three senior alleged leaders of Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah.

Although the Philippines insists that it carried out the strikes using  their Bronco OV10 aircraft – experts have suggested this is unlikely.   We know from the Wikileaks cables that similar claims by the then Pakistani and Yemeni governments were actually lies and that US drones had indeed carried out the strikes.  President Benigno Aquino, admits that US drones operate over the Philippines buti insists they are only for surveillance purposes.

While it remains unclear whether the US has undertaken drone strikes in Mali and the Philippines it looks increasingly likely  that drone strikes will continue in Afghanistan and Pakistan after the bulk of US forces leave at the end of 2014.  Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry  (and previously a US General serving in Afghanistan) argued  in a keynote speech to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS)  that “drones play a very important role in Afghanistan and Pakistan” and would in fact “play an even more important role” in the region after US withdrawal.

5 thoughts on “Drone strikes widening? Mystery airstrikes reported in Mali and the Philippines

  • It’s really interesting to see the advancements in UAV technology and extremely impressive when analyzing the potential lethality and application in future warfare. While it can be argued that the UAV progression has created numerous revolutions in military affairs that have affected how Soldiers wage war, the overarching application of outfitting these systems with lasers to support indefinite operational capability is extraordinary. This could truly be the next military revolution as military forces create the ability to wage wars from remote command locations either CONUS or OCONUS through the use of drones and unmanned vehicles. This could be the coming of a new age where military forces no longer need to deploy forward, but can conversely accomplish military and strategic objectives with never having to step foot on foreign soil. This will create new challenges as cyber warfare becomes increasingly critical to national security and the potential for foreign adversary exploitation efforts become a serious threat. While I don’t think you can ever replace the ingenuity of Soldiers and their ability to combat any enemy that threatens the United States, the development of these lasers is yet another advancement that will continue to shape the ever-changing operational landscape.

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