Small Wars Journal

The Wounds of the Drone Warrior

The Wounds of the Drone Warrior by Eyal Press – New York Times Magazine

It has been almost 16 years since a missile fired from a drone struck a Toyota Land Cruiser in northwest Yemen, killing all six of its passengers and inaugurating a new era in American warfare. Today, targeted killings by drones have become the centerpiece of U.S. counterterrorism policy. Although the drone program is swathed in secrecy — the C.I.A. and the military share responsibility for it — American drones have been used to carry out airstrikes in at least eight different countries, analysts believe. Over the past decade, they have also provided reconnaissance for foreign military forces in half a dozen other countries. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a London-based organization that has been tracking drone killings since 2010, U.S. drone strikes have killed between 7,584 and 10,918 people, including 751 to 1,555 civilians, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. The U.S. government’s figures are far lower. It claims that between 64 and 116 noncombatants outside areas of active hostilities were killed by drones between 2009 and 2016. But as a report published last year by the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies noted, the government has failed to release basic information about civilian casualties or to explain in detail why its data veers so significantly from that of independent monitors and NGOs. In Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, the report found, the government officially acknowledged just 20 percent of more than 700 reported strikes since 2002…

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