Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

War and Peace

Drone Warfare 2: Targeted Killings – a future model for Afghanistan?

Kate Clark 17 min

Armed drones came of age, by chance, at the onset of the United State’s ‘war on terror’. Washington has used them ever since to provide close air support to troops on the ground and to carry out targeted killings. In Afghanistan, they have been relatively uncontroversial, but in other countries, their legality, effectiveness and potential harm to civilians have all been questioned. In her second dispatch on the subject, Kate Clark looks at how different countries have experienced armed drones and asks whether a US ‘drone-mainly’ mission of the sort seen in Pakistan’s tribal areas might one day be seen in Afghanistan.

A Reaper drone flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan (US Air Force/Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt: 2008)A Reaper drone flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan (US Air Force/Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt: 2008)

AAN’s first dispatch on drones looked at how they came to be developed and used in Afghanistan: Drone warfare 1: Afghanistan, birthplace of the armed drone.

A ‘drone-mainly’ US mission in Afghanistan? 

For the moment, the US seems comprehensibly embroiled in Afghanistan and, indeed, possibly about to enlarge its ground force (see here). However, if Washington did demand of its military a narrow, counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan with fewer boots on the ground, drones would be the obvious, relatively cost-effective option. They need far less support in or near the battlefield than ground troops or other types of aircraft. They need somewhere to fly from – and the further away from the battlefield, the trickier this becomes in terms of carrying fuel and the time spent getting to and from a location. However, they only need a limited force located with the drones to ensure repairs and maintenance, and the collection or destruction of wreckage when a drone crashes (although this is far less substantial than the force needed for the search and rescue of a downed pilot). Piloting drones, however, can be done from anywhere in the world.

If Washington did decide to pull back to a mission focussed on the targeted killings of suspected members of al Qaeda and ISKP/Daesh (and possibly the Taleban, if they were seen as a threat to US interests), the way it would do this is evident from the experiences of other countries. Washington has deployed drones for targeted killings as its only or main tactic in Pakistan (since 2004), Yemen (in 2002 and then since 2009) and Somalia (since 2011). This dispatch looks first at why targeted killings using drones has become such an integral part of the US war on terror, before delving into the experiences of US drones in these three countries.

The expansion of the American armed drones programme

 Technological advance – the development of the armed drone in the last 1990s and early 2000s – enabled America to establish a targeted killing programme. Previously, killing someone in a foreign country needed either the deployment of forces or local proxies, or the ‘blunt instrument’ of a missile strike. Drones, however, can cross borders easily and virtually risk-free to those piloting and deploying them, at least when flown into countries with either an acquiescent government or a weak military. They have reduced the political and military costs of initiating hostilities. The US targeted killing programme has also been driven by the political transformation brought about by 9/11: Washington needed to deal with a non-state, terrorist enemy dispersed in different countries and decided a military course of action was necessary and targeted killing the most effective tactic.

The sort of uneasiness felt by the CIA and White House about assassinating al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden before 9/11, as described in AAN’s first dispatch on drones, became overnight a thing of the past. Indeed, the swell of support for America and its government by US citizens, other nations and institutions such as the United Nations and NATO in the wake of 9/11 meant there was little opposition voiced to what would previously have been a highly contentious tactic.(1)

The legal controversy

The debate over whether America’s targeted killing programme is lawful centres on whether the US is actually involved in an ‘armed conflict’. Except during wartime, states cannot use lethal force, unless as a last resort and when absolutely necessary to save human life, for example, a police officer shooting someone who is about to kill another person. (This is according to International Human Rights Law.) Critics of the US targeted killings programme say the level of violence from al Qaeda and ‘associated forces’ is too sporadic and on too small a scale for it to be categorised as an armed conflict, so America’s use of lethal force is therefore unlawful. (2) The US has responded by saying it does not need to establish sufficient intensity of violence in each location where al Qaeda is based: even in places “outside areas of active hostilities” (its phrase), its use of lethal force is lawful. Yet that would mean, a senior legal advisor to the International Committee of the Red Cross (see here) has conjectured, that Washington has expanded its ‘battlefield’ to include the whole world, something which cannot be permissible.

The US also holds that it is acting in self-defence (allowed for by the UN Charter). When members of non-state groups pose a terrorist threat to US citizens or interests, Washington says, and the host government is “unwilling or unable” to deal with them, it can legally carry out targeted killings to defend itself. (Israel has made this argument for decades and the United Kingdom more recently). Critics such as former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary Or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston, says such arguments have led to the “displacement of clear legal standards with a vaguely defined licence to kill, and the creation of a major accountability vacuum.”

Whichever side of the argument one comes down on (for a selection of papers outlining the legal debate, see footnote 3), it is clear that the technical capacity to carry out targeted killings across borders and the nature of the al Qaeda threat since 9/11 led the US to re-think its interpretation of the law. All three factors mean the US is now fighting in ways not previously possible.

Ordering drone strikes

The targeted killing programme using drones expanded in the last year of Bush’s presidency and then massively under Obama, (see here) with ten times more drone strikes carried out in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, than under Bush. Indeed, more strikes were authorised in Obama’s first year in office than in his predecessor’s entire presidency. The surge was driven by a huge increase in attacks on suspected militants in the ‘safe havens’ of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The New York Times reported in 2012 that President Obama personally authorised all strikes in Yemen and Somalia and “the more complex and risky ones” in Pakistan (about a third of the total). The Washington Post reported in the same year that the director of the CIA signed off strikes in Pakistan (see here). The Post also detailed how targeting lists were built up and decisions to kill people made. See also reporting on this from The Guardian and The Intercept).

Both the CIA and the military, in particular the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), well-known in Afghanistan for being the key player in kill or capture operations there, are involved in targeted killing operations using drones. Different legislation governs the CIA and the military, which gives the CIA extensive license to run secret programmes and legally restricts the government from providing information about them (although the military has scarcely been more open about what it does). There are particular concerns about the CIA’s lack of accountability and transparency. (See a legal analysis of the dangers of the CIA conducting military operations here and specifically in Afghanistan, here).

There have been reports of ‘turf fighting’ between the Pentagon and CIA over who should control the programme, but mainly reports of a high degree of operational cooperation, for example in kill/capture operations in Yemen, Iraq and cross-border strikes from Afghanistan into Pakistan, (4) and of air force pilots flying drones on behalf of the CIA. Last year, a general shift from the CIA to JSOC carrying out drone strikes was reported. That could mean the US government wants to be less secretive about its drones. However, as Robert Chesney of the US law and national security website, Lawfare, has said, in terms of practicalities, it may make little difference: although the military may now be giving the final order, subject to presidential approval where required, the operations themselves may still be hybrid, involving both military and CIA surveillance and intelligence.

For many years, the US neither confirmed or denied its targeted killing programme. Then, in 2013, Obama published rules governing the use of lethal force in counterterrorism operations outside the US and “outside areas of active hostilities,”(see here) defined in 2016 (see here) as “not Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and certain portions of Libya.” (Pakistan appears possibly not to be covered by this guidance or just not (see here) by the ‘imminent threat’ pre-condition for attack, mentioned below.

Lethal force, the guidance says, can only be used against “a target which poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.” If force is used in foreign territories, “international legal principles, including respect for sovereignty and the law of armed conflict, impose important constraints.” There must be “near certainty” that the terrorist target is present, as well as near certainty that non-combatants are not, capture (which is preferable) is not possible and there are no other alternatives for dealing with the threat and the government of the country “cannot or will not effectively address the threat.” (Given that much of the legal debate over the US targeted killings programme is whether it is covered by the Laws of Armed Conflict or International Human Rights Law, it is interesting that the Obama guidance draws on both.)

Drones in Pakistan

Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have seen the most drone strikes outside of Afghanistan, reports the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, with the first coming in 2004. The Bureau has calculated that more than 400 strikes aimed at the Pakistani Taleban (TTP), al Qaeda and other foreign jihadist groups and the Afghan Taleban have been launched. (5) (See a mapping of the strikes here). Strikes increased in frequency in 2008 and peaked in 2010. The author of “Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars”, Chris Woods, has argued that the increase was driven by the US military in Afghanistan wanting to hit insurgent safe havens across the border. The many strikes on the TTP which were not a threat to the US in Afghanistan might have been part of a quid pro quo deal between the CIA and Islamabad, ie the US struck the TTP in return for Pakistan turning a blind eye to the US killing those threatening American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The most recent reported attack in Pakistan was on the then Taleban leader, Mullah Akhund Mansur in Baluchistan in May 2016 (see AAN reporting here). Exceptionally, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, this was claimed by the US military. Otherwise, the CIA has been in charge of the Pakistan programme, the secrecy surrounding its actions helping Islamabad pretend it was hostile to the strikes. However, as the International Crisis Group said in a 2013 report, “Ample evidence exists of tacit Pakistani consent and active cooperation with the drone program, contradicting the official posture that it violates the country’s sovereignty.” It said that President Musharraf, after 2001, had permitted a substantial CIA presence in at least two airbases, Shamsi in southern Balochistan and Shahbaz in Sindh’s Jacobabad district, for intelligence gathering and collaboration. “Both were used to gather intelligence for drone strikes,” it said, “and possibly even to conduct them.” That sort of cooperation ended when a NATO air strike in November 2011 on the border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Crisis Group said:

Pakistan’s attitude towards drones borders on the schizophrenic. Rather than inherently opposing the strikes, its leadership, in particular its military, seeks greater control over target selection. This is often to punish enemies, but sometimes, allegedly, to protect militants who enjoy good relations with, or support from, the military – leaders of the Haqqani network, for example, or some Pakistani Taliban groups with whom the military has made peace deals.

Drones in Yemen

The first US targeted killing using a drone outside Afghanistan came in Yemen, in 2002, with a strike on those believed to have attacked the USS Cole in Aden harbour in 2000 (see here). It began to fly drones consistently into Yemen from 2009 (see here). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports between 145 and 165 confirmed drone strikes on Yemen with about one hundred others possible but not confirmed. (6) The most recent drone strike was on 30 January 2017. On 29 January, another a capture operation led by JSOC, with commandos also from the United Arab Emirates, targeted a commander with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP); it reportedly resulted not only in the deaths of 14 men claimed by the AQAP as their fighters, but also more than twenty civilians. These reportedly included nine children under the age of 13. These two operations were President Trump’s first ordered targeted killing by drone and his first ‘kill or capture’ operation.

Both the JSOC and CIA have carried out drone strikes in Yemen, operating from Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti and a base in Saudi Arabia (location unknown). The US has also carried out air strikes using conventional aircraft and Cruise missiles.
Drones in Somalia

 The US has carried out targeted killings of suspected fighters with al-Shabab since 2011, although al-Shabab was only officially designated an ‘associated force’ of al Qaeda in November 2016, a shoring up of the legal basis for strikes under domestic US legislation brought in after 9/11 (see here). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that JSOC is the lead agency, with its own fleet of armed Reaper drones flying from various bases in the region. “Elite troops,” reports the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, “are routinely deployed on the ground for surveillance, reconnaissance, and assault and capture operations. Since June 2011, the US has reportedly carried out 32 to 36 drone strikes, (7) most recently on 7 January 2017, a “self-defense strike” a press release said, carried out “in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia,” by Somali partner forces, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces and US advisors. The strike came, it said “during a counterterrorism operation to disrupt al-Shabaab,” after “the combined partner forces observed al-Shabaab fighters threatening their safety and security.” No-one was killed.

The impact of drones on civilians

One thing to stress at the outset is that US military operations in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are far less transparent or accountable than its operations in Afghanistan. The US war in Afghanistan is overt and there is a military presence in country which means citizens, MPs, the UN and others can speak directly to officers. The media, both Afghan and international, is comparatively strong and UNAMA, with its Security Council ‘protection of civilians’ mandate, has built up a reliable, nationwide monitoring operation and advocates effectively on behalf of civilians. Finding out about drone strikes in other countries is far more difficult, although a number of studies have tried to determine the impact on civilians, including whether the Obama guidance is being followed.

That the US is underreporting the numbers of civilian casualties in drone strikes appears to be clear across the board. The Bureau of Investigative Reporting contrasted the US estimate of between 64 and 116 killed in countries other than Afghanistan between January 2009 and the end of 2015 with the number it had recorded – 380 to 801, ie six times lower. In Pakistan and Yemen, a 2016 Open Societies Foundation (OSF) report on mitigating civilian casualties found that the United States had failed to publicly acknowledge a single instance of civilian casualties over 400 and 120 strikes, respectively. Human rights and media have, however, documented “credible claims of civilian harm” and in Pakistan, these have been “corroborated by leaked internal Pakistani government documents.”

A 2015 Open Societies Foundation report on Yemen which investigated nine targeted killings (seven by drones and two by other aircraft) found that civilians had been killed and injured in all of them, leading it to question the US’s assertion that strikes are not conducted unless there is “near-certainty” that civilians are not present. It also looked at whether the Obama guidance had been followed in other instances. The study questioned whether the US used an overbroad definition of combatant to mask the number of civilians killed, in particular using proximity to a target as a proxy for determining someone’s combatant status. (8) It found that, in two of the strikes, the militants targeted could have been detained by the Yemeni government (ie lethal force was not necessary). Finally, it found that in none of the nine strikes documented “did the U.S. or the
Yemeni government state that the individuals targeted and killed had posed
a continuing and imminent threat to the American people.”

In its use of drones in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, the US has been accused of expanding the category of ‘combatants’, for example, assuming men in proximity to the target are fighters or that all ‘military-age’ men are fighters, (it denies both accusations), not taking proper precautions to safeguard civilians and having a programme that lacks transparency and proper investigations into who is killed: all of this ends, critics say, in civilians being killed and injured.

As has been seen in Afghanistan, there are particular dangers with targeted killings if people are killed not in response to hostile action, but based on intelligence. If the intelligence is wrong, airstrikes end up killing civilians (see analysis here). This may be especially problematic when people are attacked based solely on their ‘patterns of life’ which indicate to US targeters that they are combatants (these are called ‘signature strikes’). Some evidence for this has come from Pakistan where, the OSF civilian casualties study reported, statements by US officials and media reporting suggested that stricter rules on targeting and a reduction in ‘signature strikes’ had resulted in a marked decrease in the number of civilians killed in drones strikes (from an average of five civilians killed in each of 120 strikes in 2010, to one per strike in 2012, and to less than one per strike in 2013-15). (9)

The wider picture

The US targeted killing programme cannot be judged solely in terms of dead civilians, or even dead militants. Drones do not operate in a vacuum. Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia all have a variety of armed actors operating on their territories, ranging from militant groups and government forces to African peace-keepers in Somalia, and Saudi and other forces in Yemen (all of whom tend to be far less careful about civilians than the US military, and far less transparent). That plethora of armed actors means that local civilians have other concerns than just US drones. Moreover, US choices of local allies and the compromises this involves also have consequences.

Several studies on Pakistan have tried to assess this ‘wider picture’. Neither the US or Pakistani governments are open with information and travel by independent researchers and journalists to the tribal areas is hazardous, so getting reliable information is tough. “Fearing retaliation from the militants or the military, respondents choose their words carefully,” International Crisis Group reported in 2013. It thought it impossible to gauge the real views of local civilians. Some studies have tried, however, and reached very different conclusions.

In 2012, the Stanford and New York University Schools of Law (see here) reported that drones were counterproductive, imposing a great strain on civilians living beneath them and leading to increased recruitment to militant groups:

Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. 

A 2016 study by Aqil Shah of the University of Oklahoma, however, found that hostility to drones increases the further you go from the ‘battlefield’. Attitudes towards them, he said, were far more positive in the tribal areas and most favourable in the area which had seen the highest number of drone strikes, North Waziristan:

In fact, 79 percent of the respondents [from North Waziristan] endorsed drones. In sharp contrast to claims about the significant civilian death toll from drone strikes, 64 percent, including several living in villages close to strike locations, believed that drone strikes accurately targeted militants. While many interviewees did specifically point to pre-2013 “signature strikes,” which targeted groups of men based on behavior patterns rather than individual identity, as the cause of occasionally high fatalities, 56 percent believed drones seldom killed non-militants.

 Locals, Shah found, were much more frightened of local militants and said the drones were more accurate than the Pakistani military’s ground and air offensives. He found no evidence that drones led to greater recruitment to militant groups.

The US believes its operations in the Pakistani tribal areas have been successful; they have “disrupted terrorist plots and reduced the original Qaeda organization along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to a shell of its former self.” The OSF civilian casualties report, while accepting this is the case, argues that the situation is not so simple:

“Core” al Qaeda leadership may have been severely diminished, but the United States has paid a high political price as a result, arguably undermining its longer-term interests and strategic objectives in Pakistan. Domestic observers have raised concerns that the space for rational domestic debate around counter-terrorism and conflict resolution has shrunk beneath the dominant anti-U.S., anti-drone narrative, which has been capitalized on by religious conservatives.

Similar complexities are seen in Yemen where the US has not only targeted AQAP, but also backed Saudi Arabia and its coalition fighting Houthi rebels. It has provided intelligence, air-to-air refuelling and arms sales to Riyadh. The Saudi-led air campaign has been characterised by multiple, egregious targeting of civilians, including strikes on hospitals, schools and wedding parties; the UN estimates it has caused twice as many casualties as all other warring parties. In the face of Saudi and US strikes, says OSF, AQAP has managed to re-brand itself as a nationalist, pro-poor populist movement: “Victims and experts have questioned whether U.S. drone strikes, and subsequently its seemingly uncritical support to Saudi Arabia have also strengthened the hand of al-Qaeda, ISIL (Daesh), and other militant groups, while undermining the credibility and interests of the United States.”

The picture in places like Pakistan and Yemen is complicated. At the very least, it can be said that targeted killings always have wider consequences: they can stir up domestic support for rebels and strengthen the power of conservatives, and US air power can also be manipulated by governments to target their own, domestic enemies. Drone strikes may also mean non-military options – better civil and political rights in FATA, for example – can be ignored. However, all claims and assumptions need to be scrutinised: some of the criticism made in Pakistan, for example, asserting that drone strikes encourage locals to join armed groups seem not to be true, although the strikes may have encouraged militancy beyond FATA.

The future of drones in Afghanistan and beyond

Many people feel an instinctive unease about armed drones. Human Rights Watch’s John Sifton believes this is because they enable “the most intimate form of violence – the targeted killing of a specific person,” while being “the least intimate of weapons,” mixing “everyday violence” with “all the alienation of intercontinental ballistic missiles.” Nevertheless, in America’s wake, other countries are following. Armed drones are fast becoming a standard feature of many arsenals. Those already making or acquiring them include Israel, Russia, Turkey, China, India, Iran, Britain and France (see here), Iraq, Nigeria and Pakistan, with China (see here) as the main seller. (10) The primary constraint on their use now seems to be the capability to deal with huge streams of data (unless you just attack what you can see). Up till now, it has largely been the US arguing that it was legal for it to kill people using drones outside traditional battlefields. It is now possible for other countries to do the same: will Washington be as sanguine about Russia, Iran or China carrying out targeted killings in the way it now does?

Apart from the lowered barriers to initiating hostilities across borders, the other obvious concern coming from the research on the US drone programme is over accountability and transparency. This last problem is amplified when those carrying out the killings are secretive (JSOC) or covert (the CIA). Having said that, however, compared to most other countries and non-state armed groups, the US is still relatively careful and transparent when it comes to civilian casualties. (11)

As to Afghanistan, a US ‘drones-mainly’ strategy there as seen in Pakistan’s FATA and elsewhere, is not on the cards in the near future. However, given the seemingly never-ending nature of the war in Afghanistan and the fact that it remains a place attractive to foreign jihadists with internationalist aims, that could change. A future US Afghanistan mission limited to counterterrorism operations conducted mainly from the skies is not impossible to imagine.

Edited by Sari Kouvo and Borhan Osman



(1) Targeted killings have proved to be one of the least controversial of practices and reinterpretation of the law carried out by the Bush administration in the war on terror. Others, including torturing and rendering security detainees and denying them the protections of common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions were thrown out by the courts or by Obama, but may again make a come back under President Trump.

(2) Heather Brandon, writing on the Lawfare website, said that the US accepts the ‘Tadic formulation’ which sets out the intensity which violence must reach for there to be a ‘non-international armed conflict’ (the legal term for a conflict that does not involve two or more states). In the Dusko Tadic case at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ‘non-international armed conflicts’ were defined as requiring “protracted armed violence” between either government forces and sufficiently organized non-state groups or between two or more of these organized non-state groups.”

(3) Legal papers looking at targeted killings, including with drones, include:

Gabriella Blum and Philip Heymann, “Law and Policy of Targeted Killing”, Harvard National Security Journey, Volume 1—June 27, 2010.

Philip Alston “Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions: Addendum
Study on targeted killings”, Presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, A/HRC/14/24/Add.6, 28 May 2010.

Jelena Pejic
“Extraterritorial targeting by means of armed drones: Some legal implications”, International Review of the Red Cross, 2015, 1-40.

HCJ 769/02 Public Comm. Against Torture in Israel v. Gov’t of Israel (Targeted Killings Case), 2005.

Heather Brandon “Will Obama’s Targeted Killing Policy Say What “Areas of Active Hostilities” Means?” Lawfare, 5 May 2016.

(4) The Washington Post’s 2011 article reported:

Their [CIA officials, special forces and contractors, all under CIA command] activities occupy an expanding netherworld between intelligence and military operations. Sometimes their missions are considered military “preparation of the battlefield,” and others fall under covert findings obtained by the CIA. As a result, congressional intelligence and armed services committees rarely get a comprehensive view.

Hybrid units called “omega” or “cross matrix” teams have operated in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen, according to senior U.S. military officials. Those employed in Afghanistan were “mostly designed against specific high-value targets with the intent of looking across the border” into Pakistan, said a former senior U.S. military official involved in Special Operations missions. They wore civilian clothes and traveled in Toyota Hilux trucks rather than military vehicles.

(5) The Bureau’s figures for Pakistan are:

Total strikes: 424

Obama strikes: 373

Total killed: 2,499-4,001

Civilians killed: 424-966

Children killed: 172-207,
Injured: 1,161-1,744

(6) The Bureau’s figures for Yemen are:

Total confirmed strikes 145-165

Total killed: 601-871

Civilians killed: 65-101

Children killed: 8-9
Injured: 100-234

Possible extra drone strikes: 90-107

Total killed: 357-509

Civilians killed: 26-61

Children killed: 6-9

Injured: 82-109

Other covert operations: 21-84

Total killed: 234-509

Civilians killed: 78-127

Children killed: 28-36

Injured: 47-136

(7) The Bureau’s figures for Somalia are:

Drone strikes: 32-36

Total killed: 242-418
Civilians killed: 3-12

Children killed: 0-2

Injured: 5-24

Other covert operations:

Total killed: 59-160

Civilians killed: 7-47

Children killed: 0-2

Injured: 11-21

(8) AAN’s 2010 investigation into a targeted killing in Takhar province of Afghanistan found that, as well as intelligence failures leading to a civilian being mistaken for a commander and killed, his companions were all also assumed to be combatants as well, ie proximity was used as a proxy for distinguishing civilian from combatant. In this case, ten civilians were killed, all campaigners in parliamentary elections.

(9) In Yemen, a reverse trend was seen: reported civilian casualties from U.S. strikes, said OSF, declined in 2011-2012; then in 2013-2014, the rate of civilian casualties per operation rose by five per cent.

(10) CNBC reported that China had moved into the market strongly because, unlike the US, it is not a signatory to the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime, which requires signatory states to “apply a “strong presumption of denial” to exports of unmanned vehicles capable of carrying a 1,100-pound payload more than 185 miles.” 

(11) See, for example, data from Physicians for Human Rights on attacks on medical facilities in Syria, largely by Syrian state and Russian forces, and reports on attacks on civilian targets, including medical facilities in Yemen, published by Physicians for Human Rights (see here) and Médecins Sans Frontières (see here).



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