Obama speaks about drone wars

obama-counterterroismOn Thursday (23 Oct) President Obama gave a much-trailed speech on counterterrorism, large parts of which focused on the US use of drones.  At the same time a ‘fact sheet’ on US policy on the use of force outside declared wars was published, as was a transcript of a background briefing given by senior US officials to journalists.  All of these documents give some insight into the US use of drones.

In the speech President Obama accepted many of the criticisms that we and others have made over the past four years including (as he put it) Read more

Drones Over Africa: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

N-Africa-METhis week the New York Times reported that the US is planning to establish a new base for its drones in north-west Africa.  While the base is to be used initially to fly unarmed surveillance drones, according to the article the US does not rule out the possibility of using the base to launch drone strikes in the future.  One day after the NYT piece, Reuters reported the base would be established in Niger.  According to “a senior government source” says Reuters, “the U.S. ambassador to Niger, Bisa Williams, made the request at a meeting on Monday with President Mahamadou Issoufou, who immediately accepted it.” Read more

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. Read more

Drones and the ‘propensity to kinetic action’

Predator drone crew at Creech AFB

The concern that drones make armed attacks and military intervention more likely is often rejected by the military and the drone industry, who argue that the drone pilots are able to stand above the ‘fog and friction’ of the battlefield and to make dispassionate  and rational decisions about whether or not to use ‘kinetic force’.

This argument, however, has been torn to shreds by the release of a mass of papers detailing the US military investigation into a massacre of Afghan civilian on 21st February 2010Read more

US military investigation damns drone operators

We’re reposting this short report, together with the links to further information, that we have just received today:

One of the trucks after the Hellfire strike in Feb 2010

Centcom.mil released on 22 March 2012 a declassified 2,100-page report on slaughter of 23 Afghan non-combatants – men, women, children – in February 2010, blamed on Creech drone pilots over-enthusiastically calling in Hellfires on a 3-vehicle civilian convoy.

Minutely detailed descriptions are provided of how drones are directed from screeners at Centcom and pilots at Creech AFB using a battery of secure communications devices: IRC chat, radio, video, satellites, VOIP, telephone, not all of which are coordinated and supervised and thus lead to disaster.

Pilots of choppers which fired the Hellfire missiles claim drone operators cannot be trusted due to lack of contact with real world conditions on the ground and because mission controllers at Creech reward “Top Gun” aggressiveness. Read more

Obama admits drone strikes in Pakistan as US drone strikes Yemen


For the first time, the United States has confirmed that it is undertaking drone strikes in Pakistan.

Many may feel that this has long been an open secret as unnamed officials regularly take to the press about CIA drone strikes. However the admition by President Obama during a ‘Google online hangout’ will no doubt have legal and political implications. In september 2011 a Federal Judge dismissed an ACLU lawsuit seeking information about CIA drone strikes in Pakistan as the CIA would not confirm or deny the drone strikes took place.

Meanwhile a US drone strike killed between 12 and 15 people in Yemen overnight according to Reuters.