Drone Wars: The rationale
Drones have become the most talked-about new weapon in the U.S. fight
> Peter GellingOctober 10, 2011
The Drone Wars are the new black.
The once covert, highly-secretive and little talked about strategy of using
unmanned aerial vehicles to target suspected terrorists in Pakistan and
elsewhere has gone mainstream. And now everyone is talking about it.
Even Leon Panetta, the former C.I.A. director, whose old agency doesn't
officially admit that its drone program exists, is talking about it. Twice
in a matter of hours last week he joked about the C.I.A.'s pension for
deploying the ominously-named Predator drones.
"Obviously I have a hell of a lot more weapons available to me here than I
had at the C.I.A.," he said, referring to his new post as secretary of
defense. "Although the Predators aren't bad."
Complete coverage: <http://www.globalpost.com/special-reports/drone-wars
The Drone Wars
Later that same day, on the tarmac of a naval air base, he said, coyly, that
the use of Predators are "something I was very familiar with in my old job."
Soon after, a Predator armed with hellfire missiles took flight from the
runway, bound for Libya.
It might have been a joke, but he wasn't joking - Panetta oversaw a dramatic
increase in the use of drones during his tenure as C.I.A. director. And its
a trend that has continued. Drones are now operated by the C.I.A. and the
U.S. military in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Somalia.
The Predator and Reaper drones are armed with both missiles and high-powered
cameras, allowing a "pilot," based tens of thousands of miles away, to
analyze in detail his target, without ever having to go into battle himself.
They have become the favorite weapon of the administration of U.S. President
Barack Obama. The U.S. government now operates two drone programs, to
varying degrees of transparency, accountability and success. One is directed
by the U.S. military, which is publicly acknowledged and operates in
declared war zones, like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The military also
operates drones in undeclared war zones in
malia-al-shabaab-cia> Somalia and
rs-yemen-unrest-protests-aqap-al-qaeda> Yemen. The other is directed by the
C.I.A. and is not publicly acknowledged, operating primarily in
7/drone-wars-pakistan-cia> Pakistan, although it has recently stepped up
operations in Yemen as well. It was a C.I.A.-operated drone that killed
U.S.-born Yemeni cleric, and Al Qaeda promoter, Anwar al-Awlaki last month.
What role are the Fed other central banks and the Bank of International
Settlements playing in destroying economies and...
> the membership site in
mid-October for a link to completed piece.
Although the first strike by an armed drone took place in Pakistan in 2004
under then-president George W. Bush, it's Obama who fully embraced the
technology. Under Obama's watch, in fact, the number of drone strikes has
The Drone Wars:
2/drone-wars-legal-law-pakistan-yemen-al-qaeda> Is it legal?
The U.S. government doesn't make public its own accounting of how many
attacks have taken place, or how many people have been killed in those
attacks. But in an analysis of press reports by GlobalPost, which is an
estimate at best, there were more than 30 strikes on Pakistan during Obama's
first year in office, up from a total of about 13 strikes in all the years
between 2004 and 2007.
And the numbers continue to inflate from there. In 2009, there were about 54
attacks, all also in Pakistan. In 2010, the war expanded to include Yemen,
and there were a total of 122 strikes. So far this year, there have been 81
strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen combined.
That doesn't include Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya, where the drones are being
used in a declared conflict.
The rationale, U.S. officials say, is simple. The drones allow the United
States to seek out its disparate enemies in parts of the world where its
soldiers, and the soldiers of the host country, are unable or unwilling to
reach. Pakistan's tribal areas, a haven for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants,
are only nominally under the control of the Pakistani government and its own
military is hardly able to operate there, let alone the U.S. military.
GlobalPost in North Waziristan:
0/al-qaeda-osama-bin-laden-north-waziristan> Obama's Hidden War
The same goes for parts of Yemen and Somalia.
The drones can also hit very specific targets, minimizing civilian
casualties. A U.S. official familiar with the government's counter-terrorism
operations said that compared to the way the United States and others waged
war in World War II or Vietnam, the drones are a major improvement. The
official noted that the technology allows the military, or the C.I.A., to
examine a single house for days, to be sure of its target and to destroy the
house without damaging anything around it.
Few would deny that targeted drones are preferable to carpet bombing, but
their accuracy is reliant on accurate intelligence. And more than once the
United States has gotten it wrong - perhaps most tragically on Oct. 30,
2006, when an errant drone strike obliterated an Islamic boarding school in
Chenagai, Pakistan, killing 82 people.
There was also the the killing in Yemen in 2010 of Jabr Al-Shabwani, a
popular deputy governor, also by an errant drone strike.
Despite official claims that using real-time imaging allows operators of
drones to know in detail both before and after an attack who, and how many,
they have killed, the U.S. government has at times gotten it wrong.
The Drone Wars:
4/drone-wars-technology-uavs-mit-surveillance> The humans behind the
U.S. and Pakistani officials announced on June 3, for instance, that Ilyas
Kashmiri, Al Qaeda's operational commander in Pakistan, had been killed in a
drone strike. Six others were killed in the same attack. It was the second
time Kashimri was reported to be killed. He was also pronounced dead in a
similar attack in 2009. Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban, was also
twice reported killed in a drone strike. And the list goes on.
Such confusion has led to speculation that more civilians are being killed
in the strikes than is being reported by the United States. The Bureau of
Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit organization based in London, has
an accounting of all the civilians killed in Pakistan since the covert drone
war began in 2004. Based on press accounts and local sources, the Bureau
estimates that between 385 and 775 civilians have so far been killed in
Pakistan alone, many of them children.
The killing of civilians and the disruption of life in regions targeted by
drones has given rise to concerns that the strikes are driving a whole new
generation of people, frustrated by the U.S. incursion on their lives, to
the side of the militants. Indeed, some disturbing strategies are being used
by the C.I.A. in Pakistan, including the targeting of funerals being held
just hours after an initial attack. Large protests against the U.S. drone
war in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen have become a regular occurrence.
Still, the governments of all three countries have tacitly allowed the
United States to continue the program, and the drones have met with success
- a number of senior Al Qaeda and Taliban militants have been killed by
drones, and they have become one of the most successful weapons in the war
If it's a good policy to eliminate Al Qaeda, the U.S. official said, then
you have to look at the best way to do that. And the drones are just one
tool in the toolbox.
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Received on Mon Oct 10 2011 - 06:40:52 EDT