Drone attacks in Pakistan
|Drone attacks in Pakistan|
|Part of the War in North-West Pakistan, and the War in Afghanistan|
|United States|| Taliban
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
|Casualties and losses|
|0||Total killed: Estimated as between 1,969 and 3,461 (As of 8 February 2013)|
The United States government has made hundreds of attacks on targets in northwest Pakistan since 2004 using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) controlled by the American Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division. Most of these attacks are on targets in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border in Northwest Pakistan. These strikes were begun by President George W. Bush and have increased substantially under President Barack Obama. Some media refer to the series of attacks as a "drone war". Estimates of those killed in strikes between 2004 and early 2013 range from around 2000 to around 3000; estimates of the proportion of civilian deaths vary dramatically.
The United States government has made hundreds of attacks on targets in northwest Pakistan since 2004 using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) controlled by the American Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division. Most of these attacks are on targets in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border in Northwest Pakistan. These strikes were begun by President George W. Bush and have increased substantially under President Barack Obama. Some media refer to the series of attacks as a "drone war".
Pakistan's government publicly condemns these attacks, but has secretly shared intelligence with the United States and also allegedly allowed the drones to operate from Shamsi Airfield in Pakistan until 21 April 2011, when 150 Americans left the base. According to secret diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks, Pakistan's Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani not only tacitly agreed to the drone flights, but in 2008 requested Americans to increase them. However, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik said, "drone missiles cause collateral damage. A few militants are killed, but the majority of victims are innocent citizens." The strikes are often linked to anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and the growing questionability of the scope and extent of CIA activities in Pakistan.
Reports of the number of militants versus civilian casualties differ. According to the Pakistani authorities, 60 cross-border predator strikes in the period from January 2006 to April 2009 killed 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders and 687 Pakistani civilians. In a 2009 opinion article, Daniel L. Byman of the Brookings Institution wrote that drone strikes may have killed "10 or so civilians" for every "mid- and high-ranking [al Qaeda and Taliban] leader." In contrast, the New America Foundation has estimated that 80 percent of those killed in the attacks were militants. The Pakistani military has stated that most of those killed were Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. The CIA believes that the strikes conducted since May 2010 have killed over 600 militants and have not caused any civilian fatalities, a claim that some experts disputed. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism alleged that 391 to 780 civilians were killed out of a total of 1,658 to 2,597, including 160 children. The Bureau also claimed that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in strikes on funerals and mourners, a practice condemned by legal experts.
Barbara Elias-Sanborn has also claimed that, "as much of the literature on drones suggests, such killings usually harden militants' determination to fight, stalling any potential negotiations and settlement." However, analysis by the RAND Corporation suggests that "drone strikes are associated with decreases in both the frequency and the lethality of militant attacks overall and in IED and suicide attacks specifically."
Drone strikes were halted in November 2011 after NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in the Salala incident. Shamsi Airfield was evacuated of Americans and taken over by the Pakistanis December 2011. The incident prompted an approximately two-month stop to the drone strikes, which resumed on 10 January 2012.
In March 2013, Ben Emmerson, the United Nations Special Rapporteur led a U.N. team that looked into civilian casualties from the U.S. drone attacks, and stated that the attacks are a violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan. Emmerson said government officials from the country clearly stated Pakistan does not agree to the drone attacks, which is contradicted by U.S. officials.
- Total strikes: 366
- Total reported killed: 2,537 - 3,581
- Civilians reported killed: 2000 - 3000
- Children reported killed: 368 - 997
- Total reported injured: 1,174 - 1,465
- Strikes under the Bush Administration: 52
- Strikes under the Obama Administration: 314
George W. Bush vastly accelerated the drone strikes during the final year of his presidency. A list of the high-ranking victims of the drones was provided to Pakistan in 2009. Obama has broadened these attacks to include targets seeking to destabilize Pakistani civilian government and the attacks of 14 and 16 February 2009 were against training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud. On 25 February 2009 Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, indicated the strikes will continue. On 4 March 2009 The Washington Times reported that the drones were targeting Baitullah Mehsud. Obama was reported in March 2009 as considering expanding these strikes to include Balochistan.
On 25 March 2010 US State Department legal advisor Harold Koh stated that the drone strikes were legal because of the right to self-defense. According to Koh, the US is involved in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their affiliates and therefore may use force consistent with self-defense under international law.
Former CIA officials state that the agency uses a careful screening process in making decisions on which individuals to kill via drone strikes. The process, carried out at the agency's counterterrorist center, involves up to 10 lawyers who write briefs justifying the targeting of specific individuals. According to the former officials, if the briefs' arguments are weak, the request to target the individual is denied. Since 2008 the CIA has relied less on its list of individuals and increasingly targeted "signatures," or suspect behavior. This change in tactics has resulted in fewer deaths of high-value targets and in more deaths of lower-level fighters, or "mere foot soldiers" as the one senior Pakistani official told the Washington Post. "Signature" targeting has been the source of controversy. Drone critics make the claim that regular citizen behaviors can easily be mistaken for militant signatures.
US officials stated in March 2009 that the Predator strikes had killed nine of al Qaeda's 20 top commanders. The officials added that many top Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, as a result of the strikes, had fled to Quetta or even further to Karachi.
Some US politicians and academics have condemned the drone strikes. US Congressman Dennis Kucinich asserted that the United States was violating international law by carrying out strikes against a country that never attacked the United States. Georgetown University professor Gary D. Solis asserts that since the drone operators at the CIA are civilians directly engaged in armed conflict, this makes them "unlawful combatants" and possibly subject to prosecution.
US military reports asserted that al Qaeda is being slowly but systematically routed because of these attacks, and that they have served to sow the seeds of uncertainty and discord among their ranks. They also claimed that the drone attacks have addled and confused the Taliban, and have led them to turn against each other. In July 2009 it was reported that (according to US officials) Osama Bin Laden's son Saad bin Laden was believed to have been killed in a drone attack earlier in the year.
During a protest against drone attacks, in an event sponsored by Nevada Desert Experience, Father Louie Vitale, Kathy Kelly, Stephen Kelly, SJ, Eve Tetaz, John Dear, and others were arrested outside Creech Air Force Base on Wednesday 9 April 2009.
In December 2009 expansion of the drone attacks was authorized by President Barack Obama to parallel the decision to send 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. Senior US officials are reportedly pushing for extending the strikes into Quetta in Balochistan against the Quetta Shura. Speaking at a news conference in Islamabad on 7 January 2010 Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman stated the drone attacks were effective and would continue but stated that US would make greater efforts to prevent collateral damage. In an effort to strengthen trust with Pakistan 'US sharing drone surveillance data with Pakistan, says Mike Mullen ' US defence budget for 2011 asked for a 75% increase in funds to enhance the drone operations.
The Associated Press (AP) noted that Barack Obama apparently expanded the scope and increased the aggressiveness of the drone campaign against militants in Pakistan after taking office. According to the news agency, the US increased strikes against the Pakistani Taliban, which earned favor from the Pakistani government, resulting in increased cooperation from Pakistani intelligence services. Also, the Obama administration toned down the US government's public rhetoric against Islamic terrorism, garnering better cooperation from other Islamic governments. Furthermore, with the drawdown of the war in Iraq, more drones, support personnel, and intelligence assets became available for the campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since Obama took office, according to the AP, the number of drones operated by the CIA over Afghanistan and Pakistan doubled.
According to some current and former counterterrorism officials, the Obama administration's increase in the use of drone strikes is an unintended consequence of the president's executive orders banning secret CIA detention centers and his attempt to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and capturing prisoners has become a "less viable option". Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia alleged that, "Their policy is to take out high-value targets, versus capturing high-value targets... They are not going to advertise that, but that’s what they are doing." Mr. Obama’s aides argued that it is often impossible to capture targets in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Yemen, and that other targets are in foreign custody thanks to American tips. Obama's counter-terrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, said that, "The purpose of these actions is to mitigate threats to U.S. persons’ lives," and continued, "It is the option of last recourse. So the president, and I think all of us here, don’t like the fact that people have to die. And so he wants to make sure that we go through a rigorous checklist: The infeasibility of capture, the certainty of the intelligence base, the imminence of the threat, all of these things." In response to the concerns about the number of killings, Jeh C. Johnson stated, "We have to be vigilant to avoid a no-quarter, or take-no-prisoners policy."
A study called 'The Year of the Drone" published in February 2010 by the New America Foundation found that from a total of 114 drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and early 2010, approximately between 834 and 1,216 individuals had been killed. About two thirds of whom were thought to be militants and one third were civilians.
On 28 April 2011, president Barack Obama appointed General David Petraeus as director of the CIA overseeing the drone attacks. According to Pakistani and American officials this could further inflame relations between the two nations.
According to the Washington Post, as of September 2011, around 30 Predator and Reaper drones were operating under CIA direction in the Afghanistan/Pakistan area of operations. The drones are flown by United States Air Force pilots located at an unnamed base in the United States. US Department of Defense armed drones, which also sometimes take part in strikes on terrorist targets, are flown by US Air Force pilots located at Creech Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base. The CIA drones are operated by an office called the Pakistan-Afghanistan Department, which operates under the CIA's Counterterrorism Center (CTC), based at CIA's headquarters in Langley, Virginia. As of September 2011, the CTC had about 2,000 people on staff.
US President Obama admitted on 30 January 2012 that the US was conducting drone strikes in Pakistan. He stressed that civilian casualties in the strikes were low. In a February 2012 poll of 1,000 US adults, 83% of them (77% of the liberal Democrats) replied they support the drone strikes. The Obama administration offered its first extensive explanation on drone-strike policy in April 2012, concluding that it was "legal, ethical, and wise". The CIA's general counsel, Stephen Preston, in a speech entitled "CIA and the Rule of Law" at Harvard Law School on 10 April 2012, claimed the agency was not bound by the laws of war; in response, Human Rights Watch called for the strike program to be brought under the control of the US military. In May, the US began stepping up drone attacks after talks at the NATO summit in Chicago did not lead to the progress it desired regarding Pakistan's continued closure of its Afghan borders to the alliance's supply convoys.
In 2013, the sustained and growing criticism of his drone policy forced Obama to announce stricter conditions on executing drone strikes abroad, including an unspoken plan to partly shift the program from the CIA to the ostensibly more accountable Pentagon, In anticipation of his speech, Obama instructed Attorney General Eric Holder to divulge that four U.S. citizens had been killed by drones since 2009, and that only one of those men had been intentionally targeted. Following Obama's announcement, the United Nations' drone investigator, British lawyer Ben Emmerson, made clear his expectation of a "significant reduction" in the number of strikes over the 18 months to follow, although the period immediately after Obama's speech was "business as usual".
At Senator Dianne Feinstein's insistence, beginning in early 2010 staffs of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have begun reviewing each CIA drone strike. The staff members hold monthly meetings with CIA personnel involved with the drone campaign, review videos of each strike, and attempt to confirm that the strike was executed properly.
One of the leading critics of drones in the US Congress is Republican senator Rand Paul. In 2013, he performed a thirteen-hour filibuster to try and achieve a public admission from President Obama that he could not kill an American citizen with a drone on American soil, who was not actively engaged in combat. Attorney General Eric Holder responded soon after, confirming that the president had no authority to use drones for this purpose. Paul is now currently seeking further answers as to why the Obama administration is killing non-combatants in other countries.
According to the International Crisis Group,
"Pakistan’s attitude towards drones borders on the schizophrenic. Rather than inherently opposing the strikes, its leadership, in particular its military, seeks greater control over target selection. This is often to punish enemies, but sometimes, allegedly, to protect militants who enjoy good relations with, or support from, the military – leaders of the Haqqani network, for example, or some Pakistani Taliban groups with whom the military has made peace deals. Ample evidence exists of tacit Pakistani consent and active cooperation with the drone program, contradicting the official posture that it violates the country’s sovereignty. This includes acknowledgements by former President Pervez Musharraf in April 2013 and by then-Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in 2008 and 2010. After the October 2001 U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan, Musharraf’s military regime permitted a substantial CIA presence in at least two airbases, Shamsi in southern Balochistan and Shahbaz in Sindh’s Jacobabad district, for intelligence gathering and collaboration; both were used to gather intelligence for drone strikes and possibly even to conduct them. This cooperation and collaboration signified Pakistan’s assent to the program. It was not until the November 2011 NATO air raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border and months after the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, vitiating relations with Washington, that Islamabad demanded the U.S. vacate one of the bases."
Pakistan has repeatedly protested these attacks as an infringement of its sovereignty and because civilian deaths have also resulted, including women and children, which has further angered the Pakistani government and people. General David Petraeus was told in November 2008 that these strikes were unhelpful. However on 4 October 2008 The Washington Post reported that there was a secret deal between the US and Pakistan allowing these drone attacks. US Senator Dianne Feinstein said in February 2009: “As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base.” Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi denied that this was true.
On 28 September, a spokesman for the Pakistani army condemned Washington's killing of Pakistani civilians and warned of retaliatory action: "Border violations by US-led forces in Afghanistan, which have killed scores of Pakistani civilians, would no longer be tolerated, and we have informed them that we reserve the right to self defense and that we will retaliate if the US continues cross-border attacks."
The drone attacks continue, despite repeated requests made by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari through different channels. Baitullah Mehsud, while claiming responsibility for the 2009 Lahore police academy attacks, stated that it was in retaliation for the drone attacks. According to The Daily Telegraph, Pakistani intelligence has agreed to secretly provide information to the United States on Mehsud's and his militants' whereabouts while publicly the Pakistani government will continue to condemn the attacks.
On 28 April 2009 Pakistan's consul general to the US, Aqil Nadeem, asked the US to hand over control of its drones in Pakistan to his government. Said Nadeem, "Do we want to lose the war on terror or do we want to keep those weapons classified? If the American government insists on our true cooperation, then they should also be helping us in fighting those terrorists." President Zardari has also requested that Pakistan be given control over the drones, but this has been rejected by the US who are worried that Pakistanis will leak information about targets to militants. In December 2009 Pakistan's Defence minister Ahmad Mukhtar acknowledged that Americans were using Shamsi Airfield but stated that Pakistan was not satisfied with payments for using the facility.
In an analysis published in Daily Times on 2 January 2010 author Farhat Taj challenged the view that the local people of Waziristan were against the drone attacks. Taj states on the basis of personal interviews with people in Waziristan that the locals in Waziristan support the attacks and see the drones as their 'liberators' from the clutches of Taliban and Pakistan's Intelligence agencies. She further challenged the government of Pakistan to provide accurate figures about the 'civilian' casualties and tell what methodology was used to collect this data. According to her 'The people of Waziristan are suffering a brutal kind of occupation under the Taliban and al Qaeda. It is in this context that they would welcome anyone, Americans, Israelis, Indians or even the devil, to rid them of the Taliban and al Qaeda.' In response to this analysis Irfan Husain writing in Dawn agreed with her assessment and called for more drone attacks. He wrote 'We need to wake up to the reality that the enemy has grown very strong in the years we temporized and tried to do deals with them. Clearly, we need allies in this fight. Howling at the moon is not going to get us the cooperation we so desperately need. A solid case can be made for more drone attacks, not less.
In December 2010 the CIA's Station Chief in Islamabad operating under the alias Jonathan Banks was hastily pulled from the country. Lawsuits filed by families of victims of drone strikes had named Banks as a defendant, he had been receiving death threats, and a Pakistani journalist whose brother and son died in a drone strike called for prosecuting Banks for murder.
In March 2011 the General Officer Commanding of 7th division of Pakistani Army, Major General Ghayur Mehmood delivered a briefing "Myths and rumours about US predator strikes" in Miramshah. He said that most of those who were killed by the drone strikes were Al-qaeda and Taliban terrorists. Military’s official paper on the attacks till 7 March 2011 said that between 2007 and 2011 about 164 predator strikes had been carried out and over 964 terrorists had been killed. Those killed included 793 locals and 171 foreigners. The foreigners included Arabs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens, Filipinos and Moroccans.
On 9 December 2011, Pakistan's Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani issued a directive to shoot down US drones. A senior Pakistani military official said, "Any object entering into our air space, including U.S. drones, will be treated as hostile and be shot down."
The daily Indian newspaper The Hindu reported that Pakistan reached a secret agreement with United States to readmit the attacks of guided airplanes on its soil. According to a high western official linked with the negotiations, the pact was signed by ISI chief Lieutenant General Shuja Ahmad Pasha, and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency general David Petraeus during a meeting in Qatar January 2012. According to The Hindu, Lieutenant General Pasha also agreed to enlarge the CIA presence in Shahbaz air base, near the city of Abbottabad, where Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in May 2011.
According to unnamed US government officials, beginning in early 2011 the US would fax notifications to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) detailing the dates and general areas of future drone attack operations. The ISI would send a return fax acknowledging receipt, but not approving the operation. Nevertheless, it appeared that Pakistan would clear the airspace over the area and on the dates designated in the US fax. After the May 2011 raid that killed bin Laden, the ISI ceased acknowledging the US faxes, but Pakistani authorities have appeared to continue clearing the airspace in the areas where US drones are operating. According to an unnamed Pakistani government official, the Pakistan government believes that the US sends the faxes primarily to support legal justification for the drone attacks.
In May 2013, an International Crisis Group report concluded that drone strikes were an "ineffective" way of combating militants in Pakistan. A week later, the Pakistani Taliban withdrew an offer of peace talks after a drone strike killed their deputy leader. In early June, it was reported that the CIA did not even know who it was killing in some drone strikes. A few days later, the freshly elected Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, called for an end to drone strikes in his country.
Media reporting from other countries
The British newspaper The Times stated on 18 February 2009 that the CIA was using Pakistan's Shamsi Airfield, 190 miles (310 km) southwest of Quetta and 30 miles (48 km) from the Afghan border, as its base for drone operations. Safar Khan, a journalist based in the area near Shamsi, told the Times, "We can see the planes flying from the base. The area around the base is a high-security zone and no one is allowed there."  Top US officials confirmed to Fox News Channel that Shamsi Airfield had been used by the CIA to launch the drones since 2002.
Al Qaeda response
Messages recovered from Osama bin Laden's home after his death in 2011, including one from then al Qaeda No. 3, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman reportedly, according to the Agence France-Presse and the Washington Post, expressed frustration with the drone strikes in Pakistan. According to an unnamed U.S. Government official, in his message al-Rahman complained that drone-launched missiles were killing al Qaeda operatives faster than they could be replaced.
In June and July 2011, law enforcement authorities found messages on al Qaeda-linked websites calling for attacks against executives of drone aircraft manufacturer AeroVironment. Law enforcement believed that the messages were in response to calls for action against Americans by Adam Yahiye Gadahn.
United Nations human rights concerns
On 3 June 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) delivered a report sharply critical of US tactics. The report asserted that the US government has failed to keep track of civilian casualties of its military operations, including the drone attacks, and to provide means for citizens of affected nations to obtain information about the casualties and any legal inquests regarding them. Any such information held by the U.S. military is allegedly inaccessible to the public due to the high level of secrecy surrounding the drone attacks program. The US representative at UNHRC has argued that the UN investigator for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions does not have jurisdiction over US military actions, while another US diplomat claimed that the US military is investigating any wrongdoing and doing all it can to furnish information about the deaths.
On 27 October 2009 UNHRC investigator Philip Alston called on the US to demonstrate that it was not randomly killing people in violation of international law through its use of drones on the Afghan border. Alston criticized the US's refusal to respond to date to the UN's concerns. Said Alston, "Otherwise you have the really problematic bottom line, which is that the Central Intelligence Agency is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws."
On 2 June 2010 Alston's team released a report on its investigation into the drone strikes, criticizing the United States for being "the most prolific user of targeted killings" in the world. Alston, however, acknowledged that the drone attacks may be justified under the right to self-defense. He called on the US to be more open about the program. Alston's report was submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights the following day.
On 7 June 2012, after a four-day visit to Pakistan, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for a new investigation into US drone strikes in Pakistan, repeatedly referring to the attacks as "indiscriminate," and said that the attacks constitute human rights violations. In a report issued on 18 June 2012, Christof Heyns, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, called on the US' Obama administration to justify its use of targeted assassinations rather than attempting to capture al Qaeda or Taliban suspects.
Reactions from people in Waziristan
Civilians in Waziristan interviewed for the report believed "that the US actively seeks to kill them simply for being Muslims, viewing the drone campaign as a part of a religious crusade against Islam." Many professionals working in Waziristan believe that drone strikes encourage terrorism. The report notes similar conclusions reached by reporters for Der Spiegel, The New York Times and CNN.
According to ongoing surveys of public opinion conducted by the New America Foundation, over 70% of civilians in Waziristan "strongly oppose" American drone strikes, whereas only 10% "strongly support" them.
According to a public opinion survey conducted between November 2008 and January 2009 by the Pakistani Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy, approximately half of the respondents considered drone strikes in Federally Administered Tribal Areas accurate and approximately the same number of respondents said that the strikes did not lead to anti-American sentiment and were effective in damaging the militants. The researchers concluded that 'The popular notion outside the Pakhtun belt that a large majority of the local population supports the Taliban movement lacks substance.' According to Farhat Taj a member of AIRRA the drones have never killed any civilians. Some people in Waziristan compare the drones to Ababils, the holy swallows sent by Allah to avenge Abraha, the invader of the Khana Kaaba.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that in North Waziristan a militant group called Khorasan Mujahedin targets people suspected of being informants. According to the report, the group kidnaps people from an area suspected of selling information that led to the strike, tortures and usually kills them, and sells videotapes of killings in street markets as warnings to others.
According to unnamed counterterrorism officials, in 2009 or 2010 CIA drones began employing smaller missiles in airstrikes in Pakistan in order to reduce civilian casualties. The new missiles, called the Small Smart Weapon or Scorpion, are reportedly about the size of a violin case (21 inches long) and weigh 16 kg. The missiles are used in combination with new technology intended to increase accuracy and expand surveillance, including the use of small, unarmed surveillance drones to exactly pinpoint the location of targets. These "micro-UAVs" (unmanned aerial vehicles) can be roughly the size of a pizza platter and meant to monitor potential targets at close range, for hours or days at a time. One former U.S. official who worked with micro-UAVs said that they can be almost impossible to detect at night. "It can be outside your window and you won't hear a whisper," the official said. The drone operators also have changed to trying to target insurgents in vehicles rather than residences to reduce the chances of civilian casualties.
A January 2011 report by Bloomberg stated that civilian casualties in the strikes had apparently decreased. According to the report, the U.S. Government believed that 1,300 militants and only 30 civilians had been killed in drone strikes since mid-2008, with no civilians killed since August 2010.
On 14 July 2009, Daniel L. Byman of the Brookings Institution stated that although accurate data on the results of drone strikes is difficult to obtain, it seemed that ten civilians had died in the drone attacks for every militant killed. Byman argues that civilian killings constitute a humanitarian tragedy and create dangerous political problems, including damage to the legitimacy of the Pakistani government and alienation of the Pakistani populace from America. He suggested that the real answer to halting al-Qaeda's activity in Pakistan will be long-term support of Pakistan's counterinsurgency efforts.
United States officials claim that interviews with locals do not provide accurate numbers of civilian casualties because relatives or acquaintances of the dead refuse to admit that the victims were involved in militant activities.
The CIA reportedly passed up three chances to kill militant leaders, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, with drone missiles in 2010 because women and children were nearby. The New America Foundation believes that between zero and 18 civilians have been killed in drone strikes since 23 August 2010 and that overall civilian casualties have decreased from 25% of the total in prior years to an estimated 6% in 2010. The Foundation estimates that between 277 and 435 non-combatants have died since 2004, out of 1,374 to 2,189 total deaths.
According to a report of the Islamabad-based Conflict Monitoring Center (CMC), as of 2011, more than 2000 persons have been killed, and most of those deaths were civilians. The CMC termed the CIA drone strikes as an "assassination campaign turning out to be revenge campaign", and showed that 2010 was the deadliest year so far as regards casualties resulting from drone attacks, with 134 strikes inflicting over 900 deaths.
According to the Long War Journal, as of mid-2011, the drone strikes in Pakistan since 2006 had killed 2,018 militants and 138 civilians. The New America Foundation stated in mid-2011 that since 2004 2,551 people have been killed in the strikes, with 80% of those militants. The Foundation stated that 95% of those killed in 2010 were militants. and that, as of 2012, 15% of the total people killed by drone strikes were either civilians or unknown. The foundation also states that in 2012 the rate of civilian and unknown casualties was 2 percent, whereas the Bureau of Investigative Journalism say the rate of civilian casualties for 2012 is 9 percent.
The CIA has claimed that the strikes conducted between May 2010 and August 2011 killed over 600 militants and did not result in any civilian fatalities; this assessment has been criticized by Bill Roggio from the Long War Journal and other commentators as being unrealistic. Unnamed American officials who spoke to the New York Times claimed that, as of August 2011, the drone campaign had killed over 2,000 militants and approximately 50 noncombatants.
An independent research site Pakistan Body Count run by Dr. Zeeshan-ul-hassan a Fulbright scholar keeping track of all the drone attacks claims that 2179 civilians were among the dead, out of which 12.4% were children and women . A report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, released 4 February 2012, stated that from under the Obama administration (2008–2011) drone strikes killed between 282 and 535 civilians, including 60 children.
The British human rights group Reprieve filed a case with the United Nations Human Rights Council, based on sworn affidavits by 18 family members of civilians killed in the attacks – many of them children. They are calling on the UNHRC "to condemn the attacks as illegal human rights violations."
A February 2012 Associated Press investigation found that militants were the main victims of drone strikes in North Waziristan contrary to the "widespread perception in Pakistan that civilians... are the principal victims." The AP studied 10 drone strikes. Their reporters who spoke to about 80 villagers in North Waziristan were told that at least 194 people died in the ten attacks. According to the villagers 56 of those were either civilians or tribal police and 138 were militants, with 38 of the civilians dying in a single attack which took place on 17 March 2011. Villagers stated that one way to tell if civilians were killed was to observe how many funerals took place after a strike; the bodies of militants were usually taken elsewhere for burial, while civilians were usually buried immediately and locally.
A September 2012 report by researchers from Stanford University and New York University criticized the drone campaign, stating that it was killing a high number of civilians and turning the Pakistani public against the United States. The report, compiled by interviewing witnesses, drone-attack survivors, and others in Pakistan provided by a Pakistani human rights organization, Foundation for Fundamental Rights, concluded that only 2% of drone strike victims are "high-level" militant leaders. The report's authors did not estimate the numbers of total civilian casualties, but suggested that the February 2012 Bureau of Investigative Journalism report was more accurate than the Long War Journal report (both detailed above) on civilian casualties. The report also opined that the drone attacks were violations of international law, because the US government had not shown that the targets were direct threats to the US. The report further noted the US policy of considering all military-age males in a strike zone as militants unless exonerating evidence proves otherwise. Media outlets were also urged to cease using the term "militant" when reporting on drone attacks without further explanation.
Waziristan Peace March
Imran Khan, chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party in Pakistan, announced a Peace March to South Waziristan on 6–7 October 2012 to create global awareness about innocent civilian deaths in US drone attacks. He proposed to take a rally of 100,000 people from Islamabad to South Waziristan. The South Waziristan administration denied the group permission for the rally on the grounds that they can not provide security, but PTI has maintained that they will go ahead with the Peace March. Many International human rights activists and NGOs have shown their support to the Peace March, with former US colonel Anne Wright and British NGO Reprieve joining the Peace March. Pakistani Taliban have agreed to not attack the Peace rally and offered to provide security for the rally.
Details of drone attacks
- Drone attacks in Yemen
- Efforts to impeach Barack Obama
- List of terrorist incidents in Pakistan since 2001
- Drone attacks in Somalia
- Terrorism in Pakistan
- Violence in Pakistan 2006-09
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