Epicentre of the drone war

In the middle of the (understandable) concern at US drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, I’ve been stubbornly insisting for months now that we should not overlook the significance of Afghanistan.  That’s precisely why I wrote ‘From a view to a kill’ (DOWNLOADS tab).  Now Noah Shachtman at Danger Room reports:

The American military has launched 333 drone strikes this year in Afghanistan. That’s not only the highest total ever, according to U.S. Air Force statistics. It’s essentially the same number of robotic attacks in Pakistan since the CIA-led campaign there began nearly eight years ago.

You can access monthly airpower summaries here.  These show that these strikes are intensifying even as ground operations are being scaled back:

The U.S. military is now launching more drone strikes — an average of 33 per month — than at any moment in the 11 years of the Afghan conflict. It’s a major escalation from just last year, when the monthly average was 24.5. And it’s happening while the rest of the American war effort is winding down.

The UK is markedly reluctant to provide detailed information on its remote operations – and Drone Wars UK has raised serious questions about the accuracy of some of its returns (and much more besides) – but  Global Research gives this breakdown between US and UK strikes:

Shachtman points out that the protocols governing USAF operations in Afghanistan are different from those followed for CIA-directed strikes elsewhere,and so they are.  He’s right to emphasise the importance of these remote platforms for providing close air support to ‘troops in contact’, often as part of a networked attack.  But what he doesn’t note is the increased propensity for civilian casualties in these situations – literally in the heat of the moment – nor the fact that the US military has its own disposition matrix for killing targets on its own hit list.  As I noted here,  these are crucial considerations.