UN report: civilian casualties from drone strikes in Afghanistan Jan – Jun 2013

unamaIt is very rare to get any details of civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan and even rarer to have information about civilian casualties from drone strikes in Afghanistan.  Today the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its mid-year report  Afghanistan: Protection of civilians in armed conflict (pdf).   The report details a 23% increase in civilian casualties over the same period last year.   UNAMA  attributes  74% of civilian deaths and injuries to Anti-Government Elements, 9% to Pro-Government Forces, 12% to ground engagements between Pro-Government Forces and Anti-Government Elements, with the remaining 4% unattributed. Read more

A challenge to drone apologists – where is your evidence?

Over the past few week there has been increasing attention to the issues raised by the growing use of armed unmanned drones. As protests at factories and bases have taken place, newspapers have begun to editorialize, politicians have formed committees to investigate and legal action is being undertaken.

Amidst these positive moves there are those of course who would dismiss concerns about drone strikes and remote warfare. Earlier this month Reuters published an Op-Ed piece in response to the Stanford  & NYU Law Schools report ‘Living Under Drones, which investigated US drone strikes in Pakistan. Read more

New reports shed some light on drone warfare

Four important reports that touch on the issue of drone warfare have appeared in recent weeks.  While space forbids a detailed review of the reports, each in turn is extremely useful and well worth reading.

Cage Prisoners have released Unnecessary and Disproportional: The Killings of Anwar and Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki .  The report examines the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki  and the separate killing of his 16-year old son Abdul Rahman in US drone strikes.  The report contradicts the narrative put forward by the US authorities and generally accepted by the media that al-Awlaki was as a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the mastermind behind several attacks against the USA.  Using the two killings as case studies, the report also raises important issues about the UK’s involvement in targeted killings as more evidence emerges of British citizens that have been killed in drone attacks including evidence to suggest that British authorities actively assist the CIA in its drone programme. Read more

CodePink’s Drone Summit

Over the weekend Codepink, CCR and Reprieve hosted an international summit on drone warfare  in Washington DC.  Unfortunately we were not able to attend but did take part ‘virtually’ via twitter and livestream feed.

Lots of videos and more from the sessions will be posted soon on their new Drones Watch website.  However one of the highlights of the event, a speech by Jeremy Scahill of The Nation, one of the few journalists to travel to countries where the covert drone war is playing out, is already available thanks to Kevin Gosztola, and well worth watching (see Kevin’s blog post here)

Drone Summit participants outside U.S. Supreme Court

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