DRONE WATCH: Drone Summary for June

One of the most respected sources of investigative reporting on drones is The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a non-profit organization based in London. As part of its research, TBIJ tracks drone strikes and other US military and paramilitary actions in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Yesterday, TBIJ released its summary for June. The major conclusions:

  • As relations between Washington and Islamabad continue to falter, Bureau data shows fewer civilians are being killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan than at any time in the Obama presidency.
  • US military action in Yemen is at its bloodiest ever, with the strike rate and reported casualties the highest yet recorded.
  • The true extent of US action in Somalia remain unclear, despite many claims of attacks.

The report also provides a comparison of the first six months of this year with 2011.

DRONE WATCH: Sunday Drone Attack Kills Eight

The Associated Press reports

U.S. missiles fired from a drone in a Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border killed eight suspected militants early Sunday, officials said, as the controversial American strikes continue despite Islamabad's persistent demands that they stop.

Unidentified Pakistani intelligence officials said that four Hellfire missiles were fired at a house in the North Waziristan tribal area used by suspected militants. The eight dead included suspected members of a Taliban faction and some suspected members of the Turkmenistan Islamic Movement.

DRONE WATCH: NGO Appeals For Drone Stop

The Pakistani newspaper DAWN reported this morning that the National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF), a national NGO, has appealed to the U.S. to stop drone attacks. NRDF has been promoting polio vaccinations in the tribal area where the strikes occur. The appeal follows a Taliban decision to ban the vaccinations due to fear of their possible relation to CIA intelligence gathering for targeting drones.

Tehseenullah Khan, NRDF coordinator, told DAWN that “The ban will adversely affect 318,000 children in the two agencies.”  He continued, “Stoppage of drone strikes by the US could safeguard children against host of diseases. Fata [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas] is the only active hub of active polio virus transmission in the country that has contributed more than 50 per cent of the total polio cases this year.”

DRONE WATCH: Drone Strike Kills Taliban Militants

Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press are reporting that a U.S. drone fired two missiles at a house in northwest Pakistan late on Tuesday, killing at least four (AP) or five (AFP) Taliban militants.  All those killed were associated with local Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a security official told AFP. A week ago, the New York Times noted Bahadur as one of those who had banned a polio vaccination campaign, citing his “fears that the C.I.A. could use the polio campaign as cover for espionage.”

One wonders if today’s strike is proof of his fears?

DRONE WATCH: U.S. Drone Kills Three in Pakistan

In the second attack in two days, AFP reports that a U.S. drone strike killed at least three people early today in a building in the central market of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan near the Afghan border.

"A US drone fired two missiles on the first floor of a shop in the main market and at least three militants were killed," a senior official told AFP. … "When the first missile hit the building, I heard cries for help and ran towards it, but militants stopped me at a distance. When they started rescue work, another missile hit," a local tribesman said about Thursday's strike. "I eventually saw them removing three burnt bodies in a really bad shape. They were put in wooden boxes and taken away."

DRONE WATCH: Drones Strike Yemen and Pakistan

After more than a week with no reported drone strikes, there are news reports this morning of strikes in Yemen and Pakistan.

Over the past several days, the Yemeni army has recaptured two towns from Ansar al-Sharia — an offshoot of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  Militants have fled and heavy fighting continues.  Apparently as part of that offensive, an attack by a US drone killed nine people: 

A US drone struck a house where al-Qaeda militants were meeting, and a car nearby," in the town of Azzan in Shabwa province early in the morning, a tribal source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

In Pakistan, the Associated Press reports:

"Pakistani intelligence officials say a U.S. drone strike has killed four suspected militants after firing two missiles at a vehicle in which they were riding near the Afghan border.


US, Pakistan Fail to Agree on Afghanistan Supply Routes

Carlo Munoz reports for The Hill:

"American negotiators working with Pakistan to reopen critical supply routes into Afghanistan have been called back to the United States, casting further doubt on whether the lines will ever be reopened to U.S. and coalition forces. Defense Department spokesman George Little told reporters on Monday that several members of the U.S. negotiation team had already left Islamabad, with the remaining members scheduled to depart the country within days."

Read the full story here

DRONE WATCH: Unleashing the CIA

As relations between the U.S. and Pakistan continue to deteriorate, the Obama administration has decided the solution is … more drone attacks.

"Expressing both public and private frustration with Pakistan, the Obama administration has unleashed the CIA to resume an aggressive campaign of drone strikes in Pakistani territory over the last few weeks, approving strikes that might have been vetoed in the past for fear of angering Islamabad."

Seems to me that killing more people in Pakistan is probably not the best way to improve relations.

DRONE WATCH: Compliance with International Law

Following a four-day visit to Pakistan, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, has called for a UN investigation into U.S. drone attacks. Pillay told a news conference in Islamabad:  

“Drone attacks do raise serious questions about compliance with international law. The principle of distinction and proportionality and ensuring accountability for any failure to comply with international law is also difficult when drone attacks are conducted outside the military chain of command and beyond effective and transparent mechanisms of civilian or military control.”

DRONE WATCH: Playing God in Pakistan

One of the U.K.’s leading newspapers, The Guardian, takes on President Obama’s drone policy in an editorial this morning:

"Thomas Aquinas, Augustine and John Brennan – two saints and a counter-terrorism adviser – may give the counsel a president feels he needs before adding another al-Qaida suspect to his kill list. But whatever else these authorities do, they do not constitute due process – and Barack Obama's administration knows it. It is doing everything it can to avoid scrutiny. It is refusing to publish its standards for putting people on terrorist or assassination lists. What are the target limits? When is a last resort truly a last resort, particularly in areas well back from recognised battlefields? And who is providing independent oversight?"