The Pentagon is considering sending U.S. troops back to the Middle East to help train Iraqi forces, defense officials said Friday.
The Pentagon is considering sending U.S. troops back to the Middle East to help train Iraqi forces, defense officials said Friday.
According to a report in the New York Times, Iraq has requested ten relatively low-tech ScanEagle drones along with forty-eight Raven drones in order to track al Qaeda fighters who have been operating with impunity in the vast expanses of Anbar providence and in Western Iraq, which shares a border with Syria.
All of the drones will be delivered in 2014.
Seventy-five Hellfire missiles were also delivered to Iraq last week …
… In July, the US announced over $4 billion in Foreign Military Sales to Iraq that included everything from infantry carriers to ground-to-air rockets.
The Pentagon’s request to Congress included $2.4 billion for 681 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and 40 truck-mounted launchers, Sentinel radars, and three Hawk anti-aircraft batteries with 216 Hawk missiles.
… The United States is also planning to begin delivering F-16 fighters to Iraq late next year.
November 21st, 2013
At least six people were killed and several injured in the Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan early in the morning on November 21 when a CIA drone attacked a seminary.
The drone strike appeared to have targeted militants from the Haqqani network, a group the United States governmentbelieves has close ties to al Qaeda and the ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency. However, the strike took place in a settled area of Pakistan when any agreement between the Pakistani government and the US government has only applied to drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), an ungoverned area of the country.
This recent drone attack will likely open settled urban areas of the country up to CIA drone strikes.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that its sources:
…said a drone hit a room in the Madrassa where five senior Haqqani commanders were meeting. Several reports said Maulvi Ahmad Jan was killed. He was reportedly a special adviser to Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, and the group’s spiritual leader and fund raiser. Sirajuddin was reportedly seen at the madrassa a few days before the strike however he was not reportedly killed. Ahmad Jan, in his 60s and a member of the group’s ruling council, was reportedly at the madrassa ‘receiving people who were coming to condole the death of Nasiruddin Haqqani’. Nasiruddin was a leading figure in the Haqqani Network. He was shot dead on the streets of Islamabad on November 11 2013.
The Bureau source named four others killed in the strike: Maulvi Hamidullah, an Afghan ‘special advisor’ to the Haqqani group; Maulvi Abdullah, an Afghan; Maulvi Abdur Rehman Mengal (aka Abdul Rehman); and Karim Khan. NBC News also identified five alleged Taliban commanders, with one difference to the Bureau source. NBC News said Maulvi Ghazi Marjan (aka Gul Marjan) was killed but did not name a Karim Khan among the dead. And Dawn named Kaleemullah among the dead, as well as Ahmed Jan, Hamidullah, Abdullah, Abdur Rehman, and Gul Marjan.
A report in The Guardian additionally reported, “Residents and police claimed three or four missiles were fired at a section of the mud-built madrassa just before 5am. The seminary’s students, many of whom were sleeping in a nearby room, escaped unhurt.”
Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who has represented drone victims, suggested this strike was the first drone attack in a settled area of Pakistan.
Based on TBIJ’s prior research, the organization explained:
…[T]hree drone strikes have previously hit outside the main body of FATA, in Frontier Region Bannu. The frontier regions are a ‘buffer’ area between the fully tribal regions and the ‘settled’ regions – the phrase used to describe the sections of Pakistan that are under provincial control. The most recent of these attacks took place in Jani Khel in March 2009, two months into Barack Obama’s presidency. Previous strikes took place in the same area in November 2008 and, according to less comprehensive reports, December 2007…
The strike occurred weeks after another drone strike on November 1, which killed Pakistan Taliban chief, Hakimullah Mehsud. That drone strike was heavily criticized within Pakistan not because Mehsud was a hero to those in Pakistan but because the country was in the process of peace talks with Pakistan and the strike ruined all that had been accomplished.
This strike that reportedly killed Haqqani militant leaders is likely to have a negative effect as well, breeding more violence as Pakistan struggles to maintain stability in the country.
The people of Pakistan are outraged at Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that he cannot stop the US from launching drone strikes in their country. They understandably believe he is complicit and, if he was a better leader, he would be able to stop the drones.
The Haqqani network was not designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department until 2012. It may sympathize and have a history of cooperation with al Qaeda forces, but whether it is an “associated force” of al Qaeda is debatable.
November 8th, 2013
Five “suspected al Qaeda fighters” have been killed by two air strikes in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan, the country’s interior ministry said on Friday.
A ministry statement said the militants were killed on Thursday but did not say whether the strikes were launched by Yemen or the United States.
However, local officials in Abyan, which was a stronghold for Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and other militant groups during an uprising that ousted veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh last year, told Reuters the strikes were carried out by American drones.
October 29th, 2013
There were more drone strikes in Pakistan last month than any month since January. Three missile strikes were carried out in Yemen in the last week alone. And after Secretary of State John Kerry told Pakistanis on Thursday that the United States was winding down the drone wars there, officials back in Washington quickly contradicted him. … Hours after Mr. Kerry’s interview, the State Department issued a statement saying there was no definite timetable to end the targeted killing program in Pakistan, and a department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said, ‘In no way would we ever deprive ourselves of a tool to fight a threat if it arises.’ … More than two months after President Obama signaled a sharp shift in America’s targeted-killing operations, there is little public evidence of change in a strategy that has come to define the administration’s approach to combating terrorism.
Despite Administration Promises, Few Signs of Change in Drone Wars
July 3rd, 2013
MIRAMSHAH: At least 17 people were killed and two others injured in a US drone attack which targeted a house in the North Waziristan tribal region late on Tuesday night.
Sources told Dawn.com that the drone fired four missiles on the house near Miramshah bazaar in Sirai Darpakhel area, targeting the Haqqani residential compound and a car. The head commander Haji Shahrifullah of Haqqani, a militant network, is said to be safe, whereas 17 people were killed and two others injured in the attack.
Intelligence sources confirmed the death toll.
"US officials" consider the Haqqani network to be one of the most dangerous militant factions fighting American troops in Afghanistan.
The leadership of the Haqqani network pledges allegiance to Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar but operates fairly independently.
The drone attack was the biggest launched this year and the second since Nawaz Sharif took office as prime minister following his victory in the May 11 elections.
NOTE: This is an update to my post last night on this strike. That post, relying on early reports, indicated 4 people were killed in the strike with more deaths likely.
July 3rd, 2013
MIRANSHAH: A unmanned aerial combat vehicle early on Wednesday fired missiles on a house located in the Miranshah Bazaar in North Waziristan, Express News reported.
According to details, the drone fired four missiles on the house in Sarai Darpakhel. The attack destroyed the house and a vehicle parked next to it.
Locals rushed to the scene and pulled out at least four dead bodies from the rubble. Two injured people were also pulled out. It is feared that the casualties may rise.
This the second drone attack in two months.
Long time peace activist, Kathy Kelly, is co-coordinator of the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Kelly just returned from her twelfth trip to Afghanistan, and is now trekking 195 miles across Iowa, with other members of her group and other peace groups, to call attention to the extreme violence and suffering she says is, in large part, a direct result of U.S. military occupation there. And a real killer at the core of the policy, asserts Kelly, is the expanding and “deadly” U.S. drone program there.
I caught up with Kelly, via telephone, last Thursday, as she continued to walk the 18 miles she was planning to cover by that day’s end. The peace activist described in detail some of the things she saw and heard on her most recent trip to poverty-stricken and war-torn Afghanistan. She emphasized, time and again, that the situation on the ground there, for everyday people, is both tragic and deadly. And the fear of being droned to death by the U.S. military or murdered by the Taliban as collaborators has now driven millions of people out of the exquisitely beautiful Afghan countryside into the capital, Kabul, which has little to offer in the way of work, housing or food for the 5 million people who now try desperately in any way they can to make ends meet.
Kelly recounted one horrific story after another, regarding the impact of U.S. Drone policy. “There were two young men who were studying to be doctors,” said Kelly on June 20th. “One doctor was a pediatrics specialist, and the other was in his third year of medical school. They were in a car driving along the road that happened to be going near an airport, and there had been a suicide bomb attack at the airport,” said Kelly, “so immediately the skies were covered with surveillance [drones], and out of fear for their lives these two guys and their driver, Hekmatullah, dove out of the car, because they thought they’d be safer if they weren’t in a vehicle, just huddled along the roadside, but to no avail. A missile hit them directly, and the driver was instantly killed. The young student doctors survived the initial attack,” said Kelly “and they could be alive and with us today,” but instead of seeking immediate medical care for the budding doctors, the U.S. military, upon arrival, hand cuffed them and then sought orders about next steps.
“After the U.S. military arrived,” said Kelly, “they handcuffed them, as they were bleeding profusely, and on the roadside. One of the young men, Siraj, pleaded for his life. ‘Please, please, I am doctor,” he said, “let me live, please save my life.’ And they didn’t try to save his life. He died on the roadside; he bled to death. They took the other one to an airport and there seemed that there was a possibility that he might be transported or medically evacuated. But they must have taken some time before the orders could be given, and he bled to death in the airport…They’re bleeding profusely on the roadside, they’re begging for help, they are handcuffed, and they are allowed to die.”
Kelly said “another man told us about how there was a day when children, little children had gone out to collect fuel on a mountain side, and I’ve heard this story repeatedly told. They were mistaken in the early morning hours for being possible fighters and all of them were killed. There were nine children, in all…”
Kelly says there is no end to the tragic stories of deadly violence that result from U.S. military policy. “Another man talked about how two farmers had gone out with the daughter of one of the farmers, to work in their fields. And a tank fired missiles and killed them,” Kelly continued “We also talked to some people who’ve been attacked by night raids,” she said, “and one man talked about how suddenly his house was targeted for a raid, and U.S. forces came into his home, killed his two nieces right before his eyes. They were preparing themselves to go to bed, they had long beautiful hair. ‘How could anybody think that they were insurgents?’ he asked me. So he closed up his house, and his family left and came to Kabul.” [++]
The U.S.-backed war in Libya and the CIA’s efforts in its aftermath are just two of the many operations that have proliferated across the [African] continent under President Obama. These include a multi-pronged military and CIA campaign against militants in Somalia, consisting of intelligence operations, a secret prison, helicopter attacks, drone strikes, and U.S. commando raids; a special ops expeditionary force (bolstered by State Department experts) dispatched to help capture or kill Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony and his top commanders in the jungles of the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo; a massive influx of funding for counterterrorism operations across East Africa; and, in just the last four years, hundreds of millions of dollars spent arming and training West African troops to serve as American proxies on the continent. From 2010-2012, AFRICOM itself burned through $836 million as it expanded its reach across the region, primarily via programs to mentor, advise, and tutor African militaries.
In recent years, the U.S. has trained and outfitted soldiers from Uganda, Burundi, and Kenya, among other nations, for missions like the hunt for Kony. They have also served as a proxy force for the U.S. in Somalia, part of the African Union Mission (AMISOM) protecting the U.S.-supported government in that country’s capital, Mogadishu. Since 2007, the State Department has anted up about $650 million in logistics support, equipment, and training for AMISOM troops. The Pentagon has kicked in an extra $100 million since 2011.
The U.S. also continues funding African armies through the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership and its Pentagon analog, now known as Operation Juniper Shield, with increased support flowing to Mauritania and Niger in the wake of Mali’s collapse. In 2012, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development poured approximately $52 million into the programs, while the Pentagon chipped in another $46 million.
In the Obama years, U.S. Africa Command has also built a sophisticated logistics system officially known as the AFRICOM Surface Distribution Network, but colloquially referred to as the “new spice route.” Its central nodes are in Manda Bay, Garissa, and Mombasa in Kenya; Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda; Bangui and Djema in Central African Republic; Nzara in South Sudan; Dire Dawa in Ethiopia; and the Pentagon’s showpiece African base, Camp Lemonnier.
In addition, the Pentagon has run a regional air campaign using drones and manned aircraft out of airports and bases across the continent including Camp Lemonnier, Arba Minch airport in Ethiopia, Niamey in Niger, and the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, while private contractor-operated surveillance aircraft have flown missionsout of Entebbe, Uganda. Recently, Foreign Policy reported on the existence of a possible drone base in Lamu, Kenya.
Another critical location is Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, home to a Joint Special Operations Air Detachment and the Trans-Sahara Short Take-Off and Landing Airlift Support initiative that, according to military documents, supports “high risk activities” carried out by elite forces from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara. Lieutenant Colonel Scott Rawlinson, a spokesman for Special Operations Command Africa, told me that the initiative provides “emergency casualty evacuation support to small team engagements with partner nations throughout the Sahel,” although official documents note that such actions have historically accounted for just 10% of monthly flight hours.
While Rawlinson demurred from discussing the scope of the program, citing operational security concerns, military documents indicate that it is expanding rapidly. Between March and December of last year, for example, the Trans-Sahara Short Take-Off and Landing Airlift Support initiative flew 233 sorties. In just the first three months of this year, it carried out 193.
AFRICOM spokesman Benjamin Benson has confirmed to TomDispatch that U.S. air operations conducted from Base Aerienne 101 in Niamey, the capital of Niger, were providing “support for intelligence collection with French forces conducting operations in Mali and with other partners in the region.” Refusing to go into detail about mission specifics for reasons of “operational security,” he added that, “in partnership with Niger and other countries in the region, we are committed to supporting our allies… this decision allows for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations within the region.”
Benson also confirmed that the U.S. military has used Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Senegal for refueling stops as well as the “transportation of teams participating in security cooperation activities” like training missions. He confirmed a similar deal for the use of Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in Ethiopia. All told, the U.S. military now has agreements to use 29 international airports in Africa as refueling centers.
Benson was more tight-lipped about air operations from Nzara Landing Zone in the Republic of South Sudan, the site of one of several shadowy forward operating posts (including another in Djema in the Central Africa Republic and a third in Dungu in the Democratic Republic of Congo) that have been used by U.S. Special Operations forces. “We don’t want Kony and his folks to know… what kind of planes to look out for,” he said. It’s no secret, however, that U.S. air assets over Africa and its coastal waters include Predator, Global Hawk and Scan Eagle drones, MQ-8 unmanned helicopters, EP-3 Orion aircraft, Pilatus planes, and E-8 Joint Stars aircraft.
Last year, in its ever-expanding operations, AFRICOM planned 14 major joint-training exercises on the continent, including in Morocco, Uganda, Botswana, Lesotho, Senegal, and Nigeria. One of them, an annual event known as Atlas Accord, saw members of the U.S. Special Forces travel to Mali to conduct training with local forces. “The participants were very attentive, and we were able to show them our tactics and see theirs as well,” said Captain Bob Luther, a team leader with the 19th Special Forces Group.
June 7th, 2013
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — At least seven people were killed late Friday when an American drone fired three missiles at a house in northwestern Pakistan, according to an intelligence official, hours after the country’s new prime minister announced his cabinet.
During his campaign, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif often criticized the United States for using drone aircraft to kill militants.
The drones that struck Friday targeted a house in Mangroti village in the Shawal area of North Waziristan, the tribal region straddling the border with Afghanistan. The identities of the victims were not immediately known, but an intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described them as “militants.”
Hours before the strike, Mr. Sharif announced his 25-member cabinet … .
June 1st, 2013
Drone strikes killed seven suspected “al-Qaida militants” in southern Yemen on Saturday, nine days after US President Barack Obama said such attacks would only be used in the case of “continuing and imminent” threats.
In two separate attacks, militants believed to be linked to the terror network killed two senior police officers in the eastern part of the country, a local security official said.
… The official said the seven were travelling in two cars on Saturday morning in the al-Mahfad district of Abyan Governorate in southern Yemen where the Islamist militant group has a strong presence, when the drones struck.
In eastern Yemen, Colonel Abdel-Rahman Bashkeel, head of the criminal investigation department in the city of Seyoun in the Wadi Hadramout area, was killed on Saturday afternoon by a bomb placed in his car, a local security official said.
Militants on a motorbike also shot and killed Brigadier-General Yahya al-Omaisi, commander of the police force at the Seyoun airbase, the official said.
… Yemen lies on major international energy shipment routes and shares a long, porous border with Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.
European countries are piling more pressure on the US to allow them to buy armed Predator and Reaper drones. As we have previously reported Germany wants to buy armed Reaper drones from the US and France too has reported this week that it ‘expects’ the US to allow it to acquire unarmed Reapers as a step towards it aim of acquiring armed drone capability.
Italy meanwhile is getting frustrated with a lack of response from the US to its request to arm the unarmed Reaper that it currently operates. According to the Aviation News article, Italy says that it is “looking for alternatives” including supporting a European black (secret) armed drone project. There are already a number of known drone programmes under development within Europe including BAE System’s Taranis, Dassault’s Neuron and EADS’Talarion (although the future of the latter is far from clear). However these are all at an early stage of development with possible in-service dates being many years off and hence the desire of European countries to purchase Reaper and Predator drones.
This week Germany also announced it was cancelling the Euro Hawk project. Unveiled with such fanfare in 2011, Euro Hawk was a German version of the Northrop Grumman’s surveillance drone, the Global Hawk. Various reasons were given this week to the press for its cancellation but German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière simply called the project “a horror without end” in his Bundestag statement. Cancellation of this project, even though it has already cost Germany 500 million Euros, apparently ‘saves’ a further 500 million Euros which can now be spent on alternative drone developments.
Meanwhile the UK continues to operate its armed Reapers acquired from the US in 2007. The UK is now testing the British-made Brimstone missile on its Reapers as an alternative to the US-made Hellfire missile. This will no doubt make it easier for the UK to continue operating its Reaper drones after the Afghanistan ‘drawdown’.
New figures from SIPRI show that Israel has been the biggest proliferator of drone technology over the past decade with just over 40% of drone exports originating from Israel. Many of these small to medium unarmed drones have gone to European countries but also to Latin America and Africa. YnetNews also reported that sales of drones now nets Israel $400 million per year.
While other countries seek to catch up with the drone wars, the US this week undertook a significant test of its new autonomous X-47B drone. For the first time an unmanned drone has taken off from an aircraft carrier, flown a pre-programmed mission and landed all by itself. As many commentators reported, this is a major step forward.
Ominously, in the same week senior Pentagon officials told a Senate hearing on drone strikes that the war on terror is one without end or boundaries and that it is expected it to continue for another ten to twenty years. [++]