Pentagon Guidelines No Longer Ban Killing Civilians With Drones

New Instructions Just Says to Avoid 'Excessive' Deaths

The Pentagon has dramatically revised its guidelines on the use of drone strikes, removing previous instructions that admonished troops to “ensure” civilians aren’t targeted with drones.

Instead, the instructions now simply encourage troops to “avoid targeting” them as much as possible, and cautions commanders that civilian deaths “must not be excessive” with respect to whatever military goal they have in mind.

The timing of the news is particularly unfortunate, coming just a week after a US drone strike killed three civilians, including a two-year-old child, in Afghanistan.

Officially, the US has never admitted to civilian deaths in drone strikes, and insists that reports by NGOs and other government showing hundreds if not thousands of deaths have been dismissed out of hand, with the US claiming their own highly classified records contradict the claim.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.