Scepticism over casualty claims as new data suggests some UK drones may have moved

Kobani air strike
Coalition air strike in Kobani, Syria

New data about UK military operations in Iraq and Syria has been released to Drone Wars UK and Vice News over the past few days following separate Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.

Vice News obtained details of the number of combatants killed or wounded in RAF strikes each month since Oct 2014.  The data shows that just under 1,000 combatants had been killed with almost 100 wounded.  While the MoD are extremely careful to say they cannot Read more

Einsteinian insanity: momentum grows to bomb Libya again

NATO bombing of Sirte, Libya in 2011
NATO bombing of Sirte, Libya in 2011

Despite the catastrophic effects of the 2011 military intervention, momentum seems to be growing among western governments for further air strikes in Libya, this time against ISIS.

When asked by the Telegraph last month if Libya could be the next target for British military intervention, a British Government source said: “Things are moving in that direction. We are taking it one step at a time.”  Military sources subsequently briefed the media that US and British Special Forces were in Libya gathering intelligence to prepare for a possible deployment of up to Read more

Blurred lines: Drones, the UK and the slippery slope to permanent war

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)

This week’s Guardian revelation that documents leaked by Edward Snowden show apparent GCHQ support for US drone targeted killings in Yemen demonstrates once again how drone technology is eroding our ability to draw the line between being involved in war or not.

Last week I took part in a discussion in parliament on the impact of drone technology. I was pressed by one of the participants on our contention that drones and the concept of remote, risk-free warfare is lowering the threshold for use of lethal force: “We just don’t accept this,” I was told, “where is your evidence?” Read more

British parliamentarians condemn US drone strikes as its revealed that RAF pilots controlled US drones over Libya

NATO airstrike between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah

On the day that 12 British parliamentarians wrote a joint letter to The Times calling on President Obama to stop drone strikes in Pakistan, it has been revealed that RAF pilots flew US drones during the Libyan conflict last year.

The UK has repeatedly insisted, in response to questions about UK involvement in the US drone strikes in Pakistan for example, that it has only every operated drones over Afghanistan.  However in a written answer in the House of Lords, on the last day before recess, UK Defence Minister Lord Astor revealed: Read more

NATO asks US for Drones “to find stuff to blow up” in Libya

NATO commanders have asked the US to send more Predator drones to Libya to enable them to find more targets. After four months of airstrikes, NATO forces are having trouble locating new military targets. As one senior officer put it “It’s getting more difficult to find stuff to blow up…”  So far the Pentagon has not made a decision on whether to grant the request as it will mean moving the drones from Iraq, Afghanistan and, as Pentagon spokesperson put it tactfully “counter-terrorism operations elsewhere.”

Meanwhile the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have released new figures related to British drone strikes in Afghanistan in response to a question from Green MP Caroline Lucas this week. The figures, which Defence Minister Nick Harvey says are of ‘weapons released’ are for the first time broken down annually, so we are able to fill in more details about the rate of use (see table below). No doubt on some occasions more than one weapon is “released” during individual attacks.

Also this week two British citizens were arrested in Herat in Afghanistan .  Special forces raided the Hotel in which the couple, who are in their twenties and have dual nationality, were staying and they were flown to Kandahar airbase for interrogation. There will no doubt now be a legal battle of what happens to the pair. Clive Stafford Smith form the human rights organisation has offered to represent them. On at least two previous occasions British citizens in Afghanistan have been the subject of a drone strike. It is a step forward that this pair have been arrested rather than assassinated – particularly if as well may be the case, they were only visiting relatives.

We reported last month that France had announced that the UK and France were to delay a decision on the new joint drone by 12-18 months.  This was something of a surprise as a decision to go ahead to develop the proposed drone was expected in the summer. France has now announced that it is in talks with Dassault Aviation to procure a version of the Israeli Heron TP drone as a ‘stopgap’ measure.  This all smells very fishy and no doubt more will emerge over the coming weeks.