Drone Strikes Fuel Anti-Americanism and Do Far More Harm Than Good
A U.S. drone strike killed two suspected Al-Qaeda militants east of Yemen’s capital of Sanaa, wounding three others, the Associated Press has reported.
Since Saturday, this was the third (known) air strike targeting suspected Al-Qaeda members. Eight others were killed on Saturday when two U.S. drone strikes were launched in the Marib province.
According to the AP, the five were travelling in a truck when it was hit. The three wounded were travelling in the back bed of the vehicle.
The two killed have been identified as Ali Saleh Toaiman and Qassim Nasser Toaiman. They spent several months prior to this in detention on suspicion of belonging to Al-Qaeda, and were only released by authorities last April.
Aided by the U.S., Yemen's government has recently begun to wage a campaign against the Yemeni branch of Al-Qaeda, a group considered to be the most active in having planned a series of unsuccessful attacks on the U.S.
However, the U.S. has been carrying a covert drone operation in Yemen since 2002, having launched a confirmed number of 42 to 52 drone strikes, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Just in Yemen, these drones have resulted in the deaths of between 374 and 1,096 deaths. Of those, between 72 and 175 were civilians, and between 27 and 35 were kids.
The U.S. also leads covert drone campaigns in Somalia, and an extensive campaign in Pakistan that has resulted in hundreds upon hundreds of civilian deaths.
Despite the fact that drones are the Obama administration’s favorite tool of choice for battling terrorism, there isn’t much that we know about it. Where else are they carried out? Who carries them out?
The first reported drone strike against militants happened in 2002 in Yemen and under the Bush administration, Pakistan saw a number of secret drone strikes carried out covertly by the CIA. Under Obama, the number of drones used in warfare was rammed up drastically, with the president being responsible for 310 out of the 362 total U.S. air strikes.
The CIA isn’t alone in using drone strikes. The U.S. military has also taken "direct action" in Somalia and Yemen and the military’s "top secret" Joint Special Operation Command, responsible for the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, also have taken on both intelligence and combat roles.
As for how targets are determined, the Obama administration has indicated that it considered any “military aged males” who are killed in a drone-strike target to likely be a militant until proven otherwise. Not likely, however, considering that they’ll be dead.
A study conducted by professors at Stanford and New York University have also contended that the U.S. of drones to target suspected militants, often resulting in a large number of civilian deaths, has had damaging and counterproductive effect" for the U.S. In fact, a survey conducted last year showed that the Pakistani public was more critical than ever of the U.S., with 74% calling America an enemy.
In an essay in Foreign Policy, Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations examined the use of drones, including John Brennan's claim that "the U.S. government has not found credible evidence of collateral deaths resulting from U.S. counter-terrorism operations outside of Afghanistan or Iraq," is not believable.
"There were many public reports — from Pakistani and Yemeni reporters and anonymous administration officials — of civilians killed by U.S. drone strikes," Zenko wrote. "Either Brennan did not receive the same reports of civilian casualties as other administration officials did (an implausible notion), he lacks Internet access to read these anonymous comments (equally implausible because Brennan closely responds to critics of targeted killings in his following media appearances), or he was lying."
It is likely the latter.