Drone Wars UK has obtained the first detailed figures for use of armed British drones in Iraq and Syria since UK operations began in October 2014. A Ministry of Defence (MoD) response to a Freedom of Information request from the group show that the UK flew just over 100 armed Reaper missions in Iraq in the ten weeks up until 31 December 2014, launching 38 Hellfire missiles. Although Parliament expressly granted authorisation only for the use of military force in Iraq, 5 Reaper flights took place over Syria although no weapons were launched. Read more
The Government Response to the Defence Select Committee Report on ‘Remotely Piloted Air Systems’ (drones to the rest of us) was published on 29 July. As we wrote when the Committee’s report was originally published in March, there is a gaping hole in the document where actual details of UK drone operation in Afghanistan – and an analysis of their impact on the ground – should be. Without this crucial information it is, in our opinion, impossible to undertake any proper assessment of “the current and future use” of drones, as the Committee claims it has done.
Despite this obvious omission from its investigation – or perhaps because of it – the Defence Select Committee was able to be enthusiastic about the use of drones, calling them “a key military capability for the future.” The report did however make some observations and recommendations, to which the Government has now responded. Read more
Three years ago today (25 March) four Afghan civilians were killed and two seriously injured in a British drone strike in the Now Zad district of Helmand province. According to the MoD the strike, which also killed two men believed to be combatants, was investigated by ISAF who found that the strike had been “in accordance with extant procedures and rules of engagement.” Words of regret were issued, the case closed and British and US drone operations in Afghanistan continued unabated.
Seemingly by coincidence, the Defence Select Committee chose the third anniversary of this tragic event to release the report of its inquiry into the use of ‘Remotely Piloted Air Systems’. Not only is the anniversary itself ignored, so too is how UK drone strikes are actually impacting on the ground in Afghanistan. The fact that casualty figures from UK drone strikes in Afghanistan are not made public is not even mentioned, never mind challenged. Just as the four Afghan civilians killed in that British drone strike three years ago remain nameless, so to do all victims of UK drone strikes in Afghanistan Read more
The Defence Select Committee has confirmed this week that it plans to investigate the use of armed unmanned drones. The inquiry into “the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs, commonly known as “drones”)” will form part of a wider investigation into the purpose and future use of the Armed Forces. As well as examining the use of drones, the wider inquiry will look at “the strategic balance between deterrence, containment, intervention and influence; the utility of force; the legitimacy of force, including the political/military interface and lessons learned from current and recent operations; the effect of changes in the interpretation of the law on the prosecution of operations, and the relationship between hard and soft power in terms of influence.” (Phew!) Read more