“No Doubt” U.S Drone Strikes Killed Civilians

United States president Barack Obama confirmed suspicions last week that there has “no doubt” been civilian casualties of U.S. drone strikes.

Speaking from a news conference at the nuclear security summit in Washington, Obama acknowledged the shortcomings of using drones to carry out strikes against terrorists. “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.”

Drone warfare has become an increasing prevalent part of America’s strategy in dealing with ISIS in recent years. The Obama administration has incessantly expanded the drone program over two presidential terms, continuing the work George Bush began in United States’ post-9/11 wars. Recent strikes against Islamic state training camps in Libya and Somalia have killed upwards of 200 extremists. Another drone strike, in Yemen in February, killed dozens.

The recognition of the killing of innocent civilians comes not long after amendments to make U.S. drone policy significantly more transparent, accountable and on-par with national security policies. However, many feel that this is simply too little, too late. The U.S. came under heavy criticism last October when an AC-130 gunship mistakenly fired at an Afghanistan hospital despite there being “vigorous criteria” in place for gathering intelligence as well as “triple-checking” of data.

Obama did not specify the degree to which innocent people had been effected by U.S. drone strikes. However, he did state that with new guidelines in place, these attacks would not be undertaken near civilian-occupied areas. The U.S. president said that they are solely targeting camps that are clearly “involved in and directing plots that could do the United States harm or are supporting ISIL activities or al-Qaida activities.”

“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,” Obama added.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have not always been weapons. Initially, the Pentagon and the CIA utilised drones by positioning them in key locations to gather aerial intelligence during the Gulf War. It was only in 2001 when America began to weaponise their drones in order to eliminate high-value figures in al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations.

At least a dozen countries are now occupied by US drones, and nine other countries have established lethal drone programs of their own.

This article first appeared in Issue 6, 2016.
Posted 10:46am Sunday 10th April 2016 by Liam Brown.