Obama Admits US Drone Attacks Routinely Kill Innocent Civilians
April 12, 2016 Nicole Gaouette / CNN & The New York Times & The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
President Barack Obama has said there is "no doubt" that innocent civilians have been killed in drone strikes worldwide. The Obama administration has continuously expanded the drone program over two presidential terms, drawing heavy criticism for the extent of civilian deaths -- also known as "collateral damage."
WASHINGTON (April 1, 2016) -- Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama defended his drone strike policy Friday, even as he admitted that the U.S. had at times killed innocent civilians.
Obama acknowledged the "legitimate criticism" in the past that the legal framework governing drones has had shortcomings.
"It wasn't as precise as it should have been, and there's no doubt civilians were killed that shouldn't have been," he said at a news conference at the conclusion of a nuclear security summit in Washington. "We have to take responsibility where we're not acting appropriately, or just made mistakes."
Obama said that the new guidelines for strikes on ISIS -- which have expanded in recent weeks as the U.S. looks at a broader array of targets -- means they are not taking place where there are women, children or a normal civilian population.
"We've worked very hard to avoid and prevent" those strikes, he said. "Our operating procedures are as vigorous as they've ever been."
(April 2, 2016) -- US President Barack Obama has said there is "no doubt" that innocent civilians have been killed in drone strikes worldwide, despite intelligence on the targets being "checked, double-checked, triple-checked."
Drone warfare has become a symbol of post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other countries. The Obama administration has continuously expanded the drone program over two presidential terms, drawing heavy criticism for the extent of civilian deaths -- also known as "collateral damage."
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, President Obama was asked to comment on the rising death toll in US drone strikes in the Middle East and beyond.
"In the past, there was legitimate criticism that the legal architecture around the use of drone strikes wasn't as precise as it should have been," he said, as cited by AP.
"There's no doubt that civilians were killed that shouldn't have been.
"In situations of war, you know, we have to take responsibility when we're not acting appropriately," Obama added.
He claimed that, in general, the US military and CIA -- the main drone operators -- use "vigorous criteria" to gather the intelligence used in targeting, and that this intelligence is "checked, double-checked, triple-checked before kinetic actions are taken."
The president's straightforward acknowledgement of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes stands out among his previous statements on the issue. To date, Washington has preferred to downplay public criticism by making formal apologies or denying any wrongdoing. US Predator Drone Strikes Kill 80 Innocent Civilians in Yemen
(March 12, 2012) -- Over the weekend commencing the 10th March 2012, US drones killed 80 innocent civilians in Yemen.
Pakistan 2004 onwards: CIA Drone Strikes. Most recent strike: February 22 2016
Total strikes: 423
Obama strikes: 372
Total killed: 2,497-3,999
Civilians killed: 423-965
Children killed: 172-207
Yemen 2002 onwards: US Covert Action. Most recent strike: April 5 2016
Confirmed drone strikes: 112-134
Total killed: 518-752
Civilians killed: 65-101
Children killed: 8-9
Possible extra drone strikes: 88-105
Total killed: 351-503
Civilians killed: 26-61
Children killed: 6-9
Other covert operations: 16-79
Total killed: 206-441
Civilians killed: 68-102
Children killed: 26-28
Somalia 2007 onwards: US Covert Action. Most recent strike: March 31 2016
Drone strikes: 20-24
Total killed: 191-329
Civilians killed: 0-7
Children killed: 0-2
Other covert operations: 8-11
Total killed: 40-141
Civilians killed: 7-47
Children killed: 0-2
Afghanistan 2015 onwards Most recent strike: April 7 2016
Total strikes: 301-306
Total killed: 1,375-1,860
Civilians killed: 61-62
Children killed: 4-18
Missions with at least one weapon release: 117
Total weapons released: 251
For more on the difference between US and Bureau data, read the notes page of our Afghanistan datasheet
(April 11, 2016) -- American airstrikes in the southeastern Afghan province of Paktika killed at least 17 civilians, local officials and elders said on Thursday, differing from official American and Afghan claims that only militants had been killed. [See New York Times article below.] At Least 17 Civilians Killed in US Airstrikes, Afghan Officials Say Farooq Jan Mangal and Mujib Mashala / The New York Times
KHOST, Afghanistan (April 7, 2016) -- American airstrikes in the southeastern Afghan province of Paktika killed at least 17 civilians, local officials and elders said on Thursday, differing from official American and Afghan claims that only militants had been killed.
Hajji Muhammad Hasan, a former senator from the Gomal District, said that three drone strikes hit the area of Nematabad on Wednesday. He said that the first strike hit a pickup truck carrying Hajji Rozuddin, a local elder on his way to mediate a land dispute in the Kakarzai tribe. Also in the truck were four of Mr. Rozuddin's bodyguards and seven other people.
A second strike soon after killed two people who had come to pick up the bodies, Mr. Hasan said. A third strike killed three others who had climbed a small hill to try to see what had happened and why the previous two men had not returned already. (There is rarely any phone signal in Gomal, in rugged terrain along the Pakistani border.)
"Hajji Rozuddin was strongly anti-Taliban -- he carried bodyguards because the Taliban were trying to kill him," Mr. Hasan said. "The car was completely destroyed, and there was little of the bodies left."
Shaista Khan Akhtarzada, the district governor of Gomal, said an investigation team had determined that "the people killed were civilians."
But the chief of police in Paktika Province, Gen. Zorawar Zahid, insisted that only Taliban had been killed in the strikes. In a differing account, the Afghan Defense Ministry said in a statement that operatives for Al Qaeda had been killed in Gomal.
A spokesman for the United States military in Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. Charles H. Cleveland, said: "We can confirm that the US conducted two counterterrorism strikes in Paktika on Wednesday afternoon. There was no evidence to indicate that there were any civilian casualties at all."
Officials and residents said that such airstrikes have been relatively rare in Paktika in recent months, even as the United States has intensified its air operations elsewhere in the country.
Besides training and assisting the Afghan forces, who have struggled as they have taken over combat against the Taliban, some of the United States military presence here, numbered at about 9,800 troops over all, is focused on conducting counterterrorism operations.
In addition to targeting Al Qaeda, which continues to have a foothold in Pakistan and Afghanistan, President Obama in January authorized American forces to go after militants in Afghanistan who have claimed loyalty to the Islamic State.
The United States Air Force's public data on strikes in Afghanistan suggests 242 "weapons released" in January and February, compared with 76 in the same period last year.
General Cleveland said that most of the "just under a hundred" American counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan from January 1 to March 31 were focused on Islamic State militants in eastern Nangarhar Province. (Each reported strike may involve more than one weapon.) He added that a few of those strikes had targeted Al Qaeda elsewhere in the country.
Farooq Jan Mangal reported from Khost, Afghanistan, and Mujib Mashal from Kabul.
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