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One in Three Killed By Drones in Pakistan Is a Civilian

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A new report from the New America Foundation states that one of every three people killed in the U.S.'s not-so-secret drone war in Pakistan is a civilian. The report also discloses that none of the strikes in 2009 targeted Bin Laden, and that they have had little impact on the Taliban's ability to plan operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. To the contrary, the drone strikes serve as a powerful recruiting tool for the Taliban and al Qaeda.

According to New America Foundation's Peter Bergen and Kathren Tiedemann (emphasis mine):

Our study shows that the 114 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan from 2004 to the present have killed between 830 and 1,210 individuals, of whom around 550 to 850 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 authors note that the rapidly escalating use of drones by the Obama Administration far exceeds the rate of use by the Bush Administration, with 2009's 51 strikes exceeding the total number of strikes under the entire Bush Administration.

The report is worth excerpting at length regarding the effect of drone strikes on al Qaeda and the Taliban. In short, they're not working:

None of the reported strikes has appeared to target America’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

...[T]he U.S. drone strikes don’t seem to have had any great effect on the Taliban’s ability to mount operations in Pakistan or Afghanistan or to deter potential Western recruits, and they no longer have the element of surprise.

...After around 18 months of sustained drone strikes, many of Pakistan’s militants have likely moved out of their once safe haven in the FATA and into less dangerous parts of the country, potentially further destabilizing the already rickety state.

...[A]lthough the drone strikes have disrupted militant operations, their unpopularity with the Pakistani public and their value as a recruiting tool for extremist groups may have ultimately increased the appeal of the Taliban and al Qaeda, undermining the Pakistani state. This is more disturbing than almost anything that could happen in Afghanistan, given that Pakistan has dozens of nuclear weapons and about six times the population.

Incredibly, after this litany of negatives, the report's authors conclude that drone strikes are "a critical tool." Their conclusion doesn't seem to follow from their premises. What they seem to mean instead is that "we're all out of other ideas."

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