The US military has used drones to attack suspected terrorists in Pakistan since at least 2004. Proponents of the small, unmanned planes say they are capable of “surgical strikes” that reduce civilian casualties and effectively combat terrorism.
Is that true? Well, not really, according to a new report from the New America Foundation, a non-profit research institute.
The percentage of civilians killed by drones in Pakistan is at about 32 percent, or one out of three, the report states, and the strikes themselves have little effect in deterring terrorist activities in either Pakistan or Afghanistan. Researchers do not believe any of the reported strikes targeted Osama bin Laden.
Our study shows that the 114 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, including 18 in 2010, from 2004 to the present have killed approximately between 834 and 1,216 individuals, of whom around 549 to 849 were described as militants in reliable press accounts, about two-thirds of the total on average. Thus, the true civilian fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 32 percent.
The group’s report is titled “The Year of the Drone,” referring to 2009. According to the figures obtained by the foundation, the Obama administration has increased the use of drone strikes considerably when compared to the previous years of the Bush administration.
There were 114 reported drone strikes from 2004 through 2009, but only 45 during the Bush years. The other 51 were during last year.
…[A]lthough the drone strikes have disrupted militant operations, their unpopularity with the Pakistani public and their value as a recruiting tool for extremist groups may have ultimately increased the appeal of the Taliban and al Qaeda, undermining the Pakistani state. This is more disturbing than almost anything that could happen in Afghanistan, given that Pakistan has dozens of nuclear weapons and about six times the population.
Although the US military executes the strikes with the approval of the Pakistani government, the people feel differently. Only 9 percent approve of drone strikes.
The group ReThink Afghanistan has already created a short documentary using some of the report’s findings.
“Clearly when you have a drone strike that kills a wedding party of ninety people when you’re really after one person and maybe you didn’t even get that person, this contributes to the problem,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) says in the film.
Watch it here: