Obama's Drone War Rages on in the Shadows -- and a New Country Is Facing the Brunt

National attention has been turned to Iraq and Syria, as the West and allies in the region have been at war with ISIS, which has carved out large chunks of territory in both countries. Alongside this newest American military foray is a continuation of the old ones. Drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen are quietly continuing.


The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) provides a comprehensive look at drone strikes in Pakistan since the very first one in 2004. Its charting of strikes shows that the number of strikes overall in the country have declined since the high in 2010 of 128. There were 11 strikes this year so far. A minimum of 51 people were killed in those strikes. While it is difficult to ascertain the status of the 51 killed, TBIJ estimates at least two were civilians.



In Yemen, we see a minimum of 11 strikes this year, matching the initial escalation of strikes by the Obama administration in 2011 (a separate New America analysis clai​ms 12 strikes). Alarmingly these strikes have continued even as the Saudi-led war in Yemen commences, compounding the sense of insecurity average Yemenis feel. There is also evidence that the U.S. is returning to “signature strikes” – strikes that are carried out based on certain behavioral patterns rather than actually identifying those who are hit.



Although the U.S. military role in Afghanistan is being reduced, air and drone strikes continue there. TBIJ started tracking Afghanistan strikes this year, counting a total of 12 confirmed strikes with a possible additional 25 strikes beyond that.

The totals killed in these strikes ranged from 106 to 147 in confirmed strikes to 133 to 174 in the extra strikes.


Somalia has never been a large theater for strikes as are the West Asian countries above, but the strikes that have occurred are at a high this year. Anywhere between 5 and 72 people were killed in these strikes.


To The Courts

It is unclear what will happen to the strike policy once the next president takes office. The only candidate who has said he would end them carte blanche is former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee.

In numerous instances, the families of the victims of these attacks are seeking justice. The family of two civilian men killed in a strike in Yemen are bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against the United States government, saying the strike “violated the laws of war.” Their loved ones, Salem bin Ali Jaber and Waleed bin Ali Jaber, were killed in a drone strike targeting three terror suspects.

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