The US launched up to four separate drone strikes in the tribal regions of Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 25 people, according to some reports.
As usual, all of the casualties were claimed to be militants. But a recent study by one of President Obama’s former counter-terrorism advisors concludes the administration has been “successful in spinning the number of civilian casualties” downward by counting all military-age males they kill as combatants.
Civilian casualties are likely to be far higher than so far acknowledged, Michael Boyle wrote in a study for the Chatham House journal International Affairs, and government claims to the contrary are ”based on a highly selective and partial reading of the evidence.”
“The consequences can be seen in the targeting of mosques or funeral processions that kill non-combatants and tear at the social fabric of the regions where they occur. No one really knows the number of deaths caused by drones in these distant, sometimes ungoverned, lands,” the study found.
Obama dramatically expanded the drone war upon coming into office. More than 300 drones strikes have been launched since his inauguration and the death toll reaches as high as 3,000.
The drone war is being waged almost entirely in secret, except of course when the Obama administration wants to brag about its toughness on terrorism for political points. The President has resisted many calls to impose more transparency.
Many experts from across the spectrum have warned the drone war causes significant blowback and aids al-Qaeda recruitment in places like Pakistan and Yemen.
“We have gone a long way down the road of creating a situation where we are creating more enemies than we are removing from the battlefield. We are already there with regards to Pakistan and Afghanistan,” said Robert Grenier, who headed the CIA’s counter-terrorism center from 2004 to 2006 and was previously a CIA station chief in Pakistan.
The US drone war in Pakistan not only kills and injures civilians, the report finds, but it traumatizes the population and has led people to keep their children home from school and to avoid any large grouping of people, however innocent. It also says the drone war has helped recruitment efforts of extremist groups like al-Qaeda.
“A significant rethinking of current US targeted killing and drone strike policies is long overdue. US policy-makers, and the American public, cannot continue to ignore evidence of the civilian harm and counter-productive impacts of US targeted killings and drone strikes in Pakistan,” the report said.
Last 5 posts by John Glaser
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