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Drone Wars June 2014 compiled by Elayne Jude for Great North News Service
On 11 June the CIA-led UACV programme resumed in Pakistan after almost six-months.
The Pakistani foreign ministry condemned the strikes in the north west of the country as a violation of sovereignty. The attacks came after a five-hour siege of Karachi airport which left 36 people, including 10 militants, dead. The Pakistani Taliban took responsibility for the assault, along with an Uzbek group.
The US Air Force intends to cut the number of UAV combat air patrols from 65, a number required under Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to 55. Further cuts are likely if sequestration funded levels are not raised in 2016. A consequence of this will be the gradual retirement of the Predator in favour of a full Reaper fleet. 259 Predators have been purchased, but crashes and retirements have reduced fleet size to 154, which the service plans to retire between fiscal 2015 and 2017.
Drones "used foolishly" have the potential to dramatically endanger American interests, according to new report from the Task Force on US Drone Policy, sponsored by the Stimson Center think tank and co-chaired by Gen. John Abizaid, former head of US Central Command. The task force is composed of former insiders, including the former legal adviser to the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. (For more, and strikes diary, see next page)
A chief concerns is that the "largely covert campaign of targeted killing" has created a "secret war governed by secret law...We are concerned that the Obama administration's heavy reliance on targeted killings as a pillar of US counterterrorism strategy rests on questionable assumptions, and risks increasing instability and escalating conflicts...The seemingly low-risk and low-cost missions enabled by UAV technologies may encourage the United States to fly such missions more often, pursuing targets with UAVs that would be deemed not worth pursuing if manned aircraft or special operations forces had to be put at risk.
The Washington Post obtained a document under the Freedom of Information Act detailing the US UACVs which crashed since 9/11. More than 400 large U.S. military drones have crashed in major accidents around the world according to a year-long Washington Post investigation encompassing more than 50,000 pages of accident investigation reports and other records.
The documents lists scores of previously unreported crashes involving dwellings, farms, runways, highways, waterways and, in one case, an Air Force C-130 Hercules transport plane in midair. 194 crashes were Class A accidents that destroyed the aircraft or caused (under current standards) at least $2 million in damage. No one has died in a drone accident.
Several craft have simply disappeared while at cruising altitudes. In September 2009, an armed Reaper flew on the loose across Afghanistan after its handlers lost control of the aircraft. U.S. fighter jets shot it down as it neared Tajikistan.
A $3.8 million Predator carrying a Hellfire missile cratered near Kandahar in January 2010 because the pilot had been flying the aircraft upside-down. Another armed Predator crashed nearby after the pilot squeezed the wrong red button on his joystick, putting the plane into a spin.
Most of the malfunctioning aircraft have perished in combat zones, dozens have been destroyed in the United States during test and training flights that have gone awry.
In April, a 375-pound Army drone crashed next to an elementary-school playground in Pennsylvania, just a few minutes after students went home for the day. In Upstate New York, the Air Force still cannot find a Reaper that has been missing since November, when it plunged into Lake Ontario. In June 2012, a Navy RQ-4 surveillance drone with a wingspan as wide as a Boeing 757′s nose-dived into Maryland's Eastern Shore, igniting a wildfire.
Military statistics show the vast majority of flights go smoothly and that mishap rates have steadily declined over the past decade.
Many accidents were caused by basic electrical malfunctions. Two Predators that crashed in 2008 and 2009 were said by their crews to have been "possessed" and plagued by "demons." In four cases Air Force pilots committed errors so egregious that they were investigated for dereliction of duty. The MQ-1 Predator has one of the highest incidences of crashes. Military statistics show that mishap rates have steadily declined over the past decade.
4 June 2014 - Yemen. Three AQAP fighters, including a local commander, killed in the first recorded strike in over three weeks.
The strike, in the Maghifar area of the Wadi Abida district in the central province of Marib, targeted a pickup truck. Jafar al Shabwani, a local AQAP commander from the Al Shabwan tribe of Wadi Abida, and two other fighters.. AQAP did not release a statement.
Wadi Abida is considered an AQAP stronghold and recruiting base. Local tribes are thought to support AQAP there. The district was the location of the last recorded drone strike in Yemen, on May 12 2014.
This latest strike continues the trend of the US targeting local AQAP commanders and fighters waging a local insurgency against the Yemeni government. A US Department of Justice white paper claimed the programme will target only those AQAP operatives who "present an 'imminent' threat of violent attack against the United States."
11 June 2014 - North Waziristan. Six killed, including four Uzbeks, in a strike in Pakistan's tribal areas.
Several missiles were fired at a compound and a vehicle in the village of Darga Mandi, near Miramshah, in the tribal agency of North Waziristan.
The four Uzbeks are thought to be part of the AQ affiliate, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Two members of the Movement of the Taliban in Punjab were also reported killed.
12 June 2014 - North Waziristan. Ten killed near Miramshah.
Six missiles were fired at four compounds and a pick-up truck in the village of Danda Darpa Khel, in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan. Ten alleged militants are reported killed in the attack. More than five drones are said to have circled the area during the strike.
Today's and yesterday's strikes are the first in Pakistan since Dec. 25, 2013. The US put the programme on hold while the Pakistani government and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan conducted peace talks.
14 June 2014 - Yemen. An AQAP commander and four fighters were killed in the second recorded drone strike in southern Yemen this month.
Several missiles targeted a vehicle in a mountainous area in al Saeed in Shabwa province.
An AQAP commander known as Musaad al Habashi was among five others riding in the vehicle when it was struck . AQAP has not released a statement.
AQAP took control of several areas in Shabwa and neighbouring Abyan provinces over the past year.
18 June 2014 - North Waziristan. Six militants killed in the third strike in the past week.
Several missiles were fired at a compound and a vehicle in the village of Darga Mandi in the tribal agency of North Waziristan. The village is near Miramshah, the home of the Haqqani Network.
The exact target of the strike and the identities of those killed have not been disclosed. The airstrike is the second in Darga Mandi in the past week. The US has launched five other strikes in Darga Mandi since the program in Pakistan began in 2005.