10 October 2017 — Drone Wars
Britain’s special friend: NATO Watch’s grim update of US ‘defence’ developments
The emphasis on air power by the Trump administration has led to an unprecedented 20,650 bombs being dropped on seven countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria) during his first six months in office and a large increase in the numbers of civilians being killed.
The latest NATO Watch bulletin also reports that Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the current senior US military commander in Afghanistan, has pledged that “a tidal wave of air power is on the horizon” in the war against Taliban insurgents and that “this is the beginning of the end for the Taliban” who currently control or contest 45% of Afghanistan.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told members of two Congressional panels that US pilots will now be permitted to seek out and attack ‘militants’ based simply on their affiliation to the group. Formerly ‘Obama strikes’ targetted Taliban insurgents only when they were attacking US or Afghan Security Forces.
This is the latest move in a series of military decisions by the Trump administration to give more decision-making authority to troops at lower levels and, as Helene Cooper (NYT) surmises, this may lead to increased civilian casualties.
It will also enable Mr. Trump to blame the Pentagon for events like the botched raid in Yemen in January, which led to the death of a member of the Navy SEALs known as Ryan, despite the president ‘signing off’ on that raid himself.
At the end of July, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), in a Quarterly Report to the United States Congress, 30 July 2017 found:
- a 21% increase in security incidents from the first quarter of the year;
- 2,531 Afghan service members killed and 4,238 wounded in the first five months of 2017;
- more than 12,000 Afghan Ministry of Defence Personnel “unaccounted for”;
- a 25% decline in the country’s domestic revenues in the first six months of the year; and an increase in opiate production from $1.56 billion to $3.02 billion between 2015 and 2016.
Will “Barack Obama’s campaign of terrorism by drone” be intensified, leading to more shameful casualties among Afghan civilians and service personnel?