Thinktank report figures highlight increasing frequency of missile deaths
Thursday, March 4th, 2010
One out of every three people killed by unmanned US Predator drones in Pakistan is a civilian, according to a new report that highlights the collateral damage caused by the targeting of Taliban and “Al Qaeda” operatives with missiles.
The report by Washington think tank The New America Foundation has found that 32% of the more than 1,200 people killed since 2004 were innocent bystanders rather than dangerous terrorists.
The nonpartisan public policy institute based it’s research on media accounts from sources including the New York Times, Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, CNN, the BBC, in addition to reports in the leading English-language newspapers in Pakistan, as well as coverage by the largest independent Pakistani television network.
“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,” the report by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann states.
“…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 study concludes.
The thinktank has produced an interactive map that shows the location and details of each reported strike. Click the image below to access the map:
Of course, given that these figures are based on public media reports of drone attacks only, the actual figures of civilian deaths are likely to be much higher.
Indeed, reports last year drawn up by Pakistani authorities indicated that close to 700 civilians had already perished, with just 14 wanted Al Qaeda leaders killed in the attacks.
The frequency of unmanned drone attacks has increased, as expected, under the Obama administration, with 53 reported attacks last year; more than were carried out during the entirety of George W. Bush’s two four year terms in office.
This is one campaign promise Obama has kept, as he admitted that he would seek to expand the U.S. led war on terror into Pakistan should he be elected.
In January, Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama requested a record defense budget, the bulk of which will be used to acquire more pilotless Predator and Reaper drones.
The U.S. still officially refuses to acknowledge the existence of any unmanned drone program inside Pakistan.
The reason for this is simple – even if you discount the hundreds of innocent lives lost in the attacks, the strikes still amount to unlawful extra-judicial killing of militants. They also infringe the national sovereignty of Pakistan and constitute an act of war.
While Pakistani authorities have consistently voiced public opposition to cross border missile strikes, which have killed hundreds of innocent civilians, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has stated that the Pakistani government is actively facilitating the attacks by providing bases from which to launch the drones.
The New America Foundation report concludes that although civilian casualty figures are high, they do not believe their study will influence the U.S. military to reconsider their use.
“Despite the controversy drone strikes are likely to remain a critical tool for the United States to disrupt Al Qaeda and Taliban operations and leadership structures,” it states.
This article was posted: Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 11:26 am