2 July 2018 — Drone Warfare
The Pentagon has told Congress it estimates that nearly 500 civilians were killed as a result of US military actions in the first year of the Trump administration. According to CNN: “(The Department of Defense) assesses that there are credible reports of approximately 499 civilians killed and approximately 169 civilians injured during 2017” as a result of military operations in Iraq and Syria targeting ISIS, operations in Afghanistan targeting the Taliban and ISIS, and operations in Yemen against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS.
According to interviews and an analysis of open-source data by The Intercept, the US has conducted approximately 550 drone strikes in Libya since 2011, more than in Somalia, Yemen, or Pakistan. During a four-month span in 2016, there were approximately 300 drone strikes in Libya, according to U.S. officials. That’s seven times more than the 42 confirmed U.S. drone attacks in Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan in 2016, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The Libyan attacks have continued under the Trump administration, with the latest U.S. drone strike occurring last week about 50 miles southeast of the town of Bani Walid.
NatoWatchreports that, though during the air war in July 2011, then NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that the alliance had “no confirmed information” about possible civilian casualties as a result of its bombing, Libyan officials claimed that the alliance’s airstrikes killed more than 1,100 people’ These claims were regularly discredited in the Western media as propaganda, but NATO’s claim of a civilian casualty-free campaign was contradicted by a number of credible media reports of NATO attacks that killed or injured civilians
In Afghanistan, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), from 2006 until it ceased combat operations and was disbanded in December 2014, had become increasingly involved in more intensive combat operations and gradually relied on airpower in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. The result was large numbers of civilian casualties and intense criticism of US and NATO forces by Afghan political leaders and the general public. Since 2015, the air campaign against the Taliban and other extremist groups has been continued by US and Afghan forces.
Changes to US rules of engagement in Afghanistan have made it easier for US forces to carry out airstrikes against the Taliban, with a resulting spike in civilian casualties.
Business Insider records that during the Trump administration an unprecedented 20,650 bombs have been dropped on seven countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria) and there has been a large increase in the numbers of civilians being killed.
NatoWatch finds it disappointing that a ‘values-based alliance’ doesn’t appear to take its responsibility for potential civilian casualties from air power more seriously: “As a blueprint for allied nations as they build and deploy air and space capabilities, the joint strategy document ought to have emphasised the requirement under international law to thoroughly investigate any killing of civilians and it should have committed the alliance to introducing a casualty recording mechanism that is open, transparent and available to public scrutiny”.
Absolutists will agree with the late Harry Patch: