Al Jazeera America & Peter Moskowitz / Al Jazeera – 2014-11-27 00:27:23
US Drone Strike in Pakistan Kills
Five Suspected Taliban Fighters
Al Jazeera America
(November 26, 2014) — A US drone strike on Wednesday killed five suspected militants in northwest Pakistan, a government official said, as an anti-Taliban offensive by the Pakistani military grew in intensity. The deadly strike comes one day after a human rights group issued a report drawing international attention to the number of innocent lives claimed by US drone strikes.
The drone strike on Wednesday targeted a house in Datta Khel near the Afghan border. Pakistani fighters in the area allegedly used the residence as a safe house.
“The Government of Pakistan condemns the drone strike that took place in the early hours of Wednesday, 26 November 2014 at Garga, north of Shawal in North Waziristan Agency,” the government said in a statement.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks drone strikes using media reports, said that the United States has so far carried out 20 drone strikes in Pakistan this year.
Pakistan typically protests US drone strikes carried out on its territory as a breach of sovereignty that kills innocent civilians, but analysts believe Pakistan’s military has accepted the attacks and even coordinates some with the US military.
Earlier this year, the US halted drone strikes in Pakistan for six months as Islamabad attempted to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban. The attempt failed and the strikes resumed days before Pakistan launched an anti-Taliban offensive in the border region of North Waziristan on June 15.
There has so far been little ground fighting in the offensive. Most of the casualties that Pakistan’s military has reported come from air raids. On Tuesday, the military said it killed 20 fighters in aerial bombing.
For it’s part, the US says it only targets militants in the drone strikes, but does not release details about individual strikes.
But a report published on Tuesday by UK-based human rights organization Reprieve showed that the number of non-targeted individuals killed in US drone strikes is extraordinarily high.
The group, which based most of its findings on US drone strikes in Yemen, found that as many as 1,147 people were killed in the targeting of 41 individuals named on the US “kill list.” Furthermore, each of the 41 targets appeared to have “died” on multiple occasions.
“Reports indicate that each assassination target ‘died’ on average more than three times before their actual death,” the report said.
Reprieve said that in Pakistan, 24 men were reported as being killed or targeted multiple times.
Al Jazeera and Reuters
A Decade of Drones
Al Jazeera Graphic
(August 21, 2014) — US drones in Pakistan have killed thousands since 2004. How have leaders defended or decried these deadly planes?
Report: Obama Drone Policy
Destabilizing for World, US Democracy
Peter Moskowitz / Al Jazeera
(June 26, 2014) — Drone technology and the way the United States uses it has the potential to destabilize battlefields, governments and even American democracy, according to a new report by a task force that includes former US military officials.
The report, released by the Stimson Center, a Washington, D.C., think tank, surveyed the Obama administration’s use of drones and concluded that while they can be a powerful and effective force in wars, they can also interfere with the sovereignty of other nations and cause unnecessary conflict abroad.
The report also suggested that the Obama administration’s secrecy surrounding US drone programs is to blame for the public’s current misconceptions and fears about the aircraft, which are also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The Stimson report comes more than a year after President Barack Obama promised to curtail and increase accountability on the use of drones during a speech at National Defense University. But little has changed since that speech, and in that time the calls for reform have grown louder.
While Obama has faced harsh criticism from human rights activists about his drone programs, the Stimson report added the voices of military officials and members of the defense industry to the national debate.
“We are concerned that the Obama administration’s heavy reliance on targeted killings as a pillar of US counterterrorism strategy rests on questionable assumptions, and risks increasing instability and escalating conflicts,” the 80-page report said.
While critical in several aspects, the report also underscored the role UAVs ought to play in US strategy and said there is a lot of public confusion about their use. The report’s authors, who include retired Gen. John Abizaid, the former head of the US Military Central Command, said that drones could be an effective tool in fighting wars and that much of the fear about them comes from misperceptions rather than actual threat.
The report highlighted the fact that the vast majority of drones aren’t weaponized, and are used for nonlethal means like surveillance. But the authors said that while the technology shouldn’t be unnecessarily feared, the potential for misuse, abuse and ethical folly is nonetheless high.
“While we do not believe that UAV strikes cause disproportionate civilian casualties or turn killing into a ‘video-game,’ we are concerned that the availability of lethal UAV technologies has enabled US policies that likely would not have been adopted in the absence of UAVs,” the authors said.
One of the biggest problems, according to the report, is the potential for US drone use to destabilize legal and moral norms worldwide. The authors warned that if the US endorses using drone strikes without the consent of foreign governments, the country risks creating a kind of moral and legal domino effect that could spur other countries to use drones in legally questionable ways.
“From the perspective of many around the world, the United States currently appears to claim, in effect, the legal right to kill any person it determines is a member of Al-Qaeda or its associated forces, in any state on Earth, at any time, based on secret criteria and secret evidence . . . and with no means for anyone outside that process to identify or remedy mistakes or abuses,” the report said. “US practices set a dangerous precedent that may be seized upon by other states — not all of which are likely to behave as scrupulously as US officials.”
The success or failure of the use of drones hinges not only on how they are used, but also on how the public perceives and influences their use, the report added.
The authors chastised the Obama administration for being overly secretive about its drone programs, a policy they said breeds misconception and fear. They said that more transparency and better, more consistent oversight is needed if the administration wants to ensure that the programs are compatible with American democracy.
Among the panel’s eight recommendations are that all lethal drone programs be carried out by the military and not the CIA, that the Obama administration develop an independent review board to oversee the drone programs and that every drone strike is made public, if not beforehand, then at least after the fact.
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