Use Of Drones By US Comes Under Renewed Scrutiny
Earlier this week, Amnesty International issued a report criticizing the use of drones to target individuals implicated in acts of terrorism and made the claim that they constitute war crimes.
“Secrecy surrounding the drones program gives the US administration a license to kill beyond the reach of the courts or basic standards of international law. It’s time for the USA to come clean about the drones program and hold those responsible for these violations to account,” said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Pakistan Researcher at a press conference releasing its report.
Amnesty International says the report is “not a comprehensive survey of US drone strikes,” but rather it is a “qualitative assessment based on detailed field research into nine of the 45 reported strikes that occurred in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency between January 2012 and August 2013.
The report was issued in conjunction with the Human Rights Watch, which conducted its own analysis of drone strikes in Yemen.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the program saying that “U.S. counterterrorism operations are precise, they are lawful and they are effective.” He added that the administration believes drone strikes limit, not increase, the number of civilian casualties who would be killed.
At a meeting at the White House, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif requested President Obama end the use of drones in the war on terror – an issue which has continued to cause tension between the two nations. According to Reuters, Nawaz told reporters that he “brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes.”
A day after the meeting, The Washington Post featured a cover story detailing an agreement between Pakistan and the US about drone strikes in Pakistan that included classified briefings given by the CIA to Pakistani officials. The report runs counter to Pakistan’s public proclamations of its disapproval of the program.
“The documents detailed at least 65 strikes in Pakistan and were described as “talking points” for CIA briefings, which occurred with such regularity that they became a matter of diplomatic routine. The documents are marked “top secret” but cleared for release to Pakistan,” the paper reports.
In August, James Carafano, a senior fellow with the Heritage Foundation, wrote an article in The Atlantic in which he said despite his own dislike for the program, he contended it is legal.
“There is nothing novel or unusual about the destructive potential of a drone strike. Pretty much every weapon in the U.S. arsenal may be used in war, provided the users (1) have the legal authority to use them, (2) aim them at that legitimate targets, and (3) use them according to the rules of engagement laid out by their commanders. All those bases are covered when it comes to drones,” Carafano argued. He goes on to make the case, however, that while legal, the use of drones has been ineffective.
Whether Pakistan was complicit in the drone strikes or not, The Christian Science Monitor says the program should be more transparent and more needs to be done to avoid civilian casualties.
“Drone technology has long been remotely controlled, or automated, rather than strictly autonomous. Yet the lines are quickly becoming blurred. To prevent civilian casualties, the military must not only keep humans “in the loop” of
decisionmaking, they must be more aware of how operators know they have located a threat and one that is not near civilians,” says the paper’s editorial page.