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

New figures reveal almost 1,500 US/UK drone strikes in Afghanistan since 2009

New information about the number of US drone strikes in Afghanistan has been revealed by DangerRoom, the national security blog at Wired.com.  According to official US figures supplied to the website there have been a total of 1,160 US drone strikes in Afghanistan since the beginning of 2009. (Note each ‘weapon released’ is counted by the military as a strike; in press reports often several weapons releases at a single location are counted as a single ‘strike’.)  This is not the overall total number of US drone strikes as figures have only been given from the beginning of 2009, while US drones have been operating in Afghanistan for several years before that. Read more

Drone Protests Grow

Imran Khan’s drone protest in Pakistan

Public opposition to the growing use of unmanned drones  is being made much more visible this week in protests taking place around the world.

The most high-profile event is taking place in Pakistan as Imran Khan leads thousands on a march against US drone strikes. Dozens of non-Pakistanis have also  joined the protests in solidarity, including Clive Stafford Smith of the Human Rights group, Reprieve, and members of the US campaign group, CodePink Read more

More on legal action over US drone strikes

On both sides of the Atlantic, legal challenges related to US drone use are about to hit the courts.

Tomorrow the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will take the CIA to court for refusing to comply with a Freedom of Information request for copies of documents related to the CIA’s drone strike programme.

The CIA has refused to comply with the FoIA request on the grounds that it is forbidden to talk about the secretive programme.  The ACLU say that the CIA cannot on the one hand refuse documents on the grounds of secrecy while at the very same time regularly give  briefings about its drone strikes.    Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the ACLU told the Guardian: Read more

A Century of Drone Crashes

This week  the USAF released an accident investigation report into the crash of a US Predator drone in Afghanistan in April 2012.  This crash brings the number of drone crashes in our updated database  to 100 (see full database here) and so we thought it a good time to do some data crunching.

Our database primarily contains details of crashes of  Class 2 and Class 3 UAVs (i.e. medium and large drones – see here for explanation of drone class and size) since January 2007.  However  there are a few occasions when small drone crashes have been included for some notable reasons (i.e. crashed with another aircraft).  We continue to maintain this database  as, although safety and reliability is a key issue in the growing use of unmanned aerial vehicles, nobody appears to be publicly compiling  drone crash information.   We are not claiming that our database is complete.  Given the secretive nature of drone operations and development, it is highly likely that other drone crashes have occurred and not been publicly reported. 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