The United States has made little or no progress in explaining how and why it orders lethal drone strikes, even as America’s reliance on the unmanned aircraft soars worldwide, a report found Tuesday.
According to a study by the Stimson Center, a Washington-based nonpartisan think tank, President Barack Obama’s administration has failed to provide basic transparency into the drone program that has become a keystone in America’s counterterrorism efforts.
“In terms of the justification for the program and all the legal basis — that still remains out of reach of the American public,” study author Rachel Stohl told AFP.
Her paper gives American school-style grades in a “report card” to the US government, rating how it has improved its drone accountability since the Stimson Center wrote a damning report on the matter in June 2014.
The report card gave the Obama administration an “F” – or a failing grade — in three areas: a lack of progress on releasing information on targeted drone strikes, developing better accountability mechanisms and explaining the US lethal drone program’s legal basis.
A seemingly ever-expanding global war against extremist groups means the United States relies heavily on drones to monitor hostile lands and launch missiles at suspected extremists. Obama has drastically expanded the drone program during his tenure, but his administration provides scant information on strikes.
Critics say many drone strikes kill civilians, and the aircraft alienate and radicalize local populations on the ground.
Since June 2014, the United States has reportedly carried out lethal drone strikes in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, as well as against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria. The Stimson Center said at least a dozen countries now host US drone bases, including Ethiopia, the Seychelles and Yemen.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2016.