Over the past decade the use of armed drones has dramatically increased and spread with drone strikes reported to have taken place in up to ten countries. Although the US use of drones in Pakistan and Yemen has been most controversial and received the majority of media coverage, Afghanistan has been the real centre of armed drone use. The first combat drone strike took place in Afghanistan just weeks after 9/11 and the vast majority of drone strikes have taken place there although exact figures remain shrouded in secrecy. It is not surprising therefore that the forthcoming end of NATO combat operations in Afghanistan later this year brings the drone wars to something of a crossroads. Read more
On 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
This 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
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
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 2010. Read more
We’re reposting this short report, together with the links to further information, that we have just received today:
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