At least 2,464 people have now been killed by US drone strikes outside the country’s declared war zones since President Barack Obama’s inauguration six years ago, the Bureau’s latest monthly report reveals.
Of the total killed since Obama took his oath of office on January 20 2009, at least 314 have been civilians, while the number of confirmed strikes under his administration now stands at 456.
Research by the Bureau also shows there have now been nearly nine times more strikes under Obama in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia than there were under his predecessor, George W Bush.
And the covert Obama strikes, the first of which hit Pakistan just three days after his inauguration, have killed almost six times more people and twice as many civilians than those ordered in the Bush years, the data shows.
The figures have been compiled as part of the Bureau’s monthly report into covert US drone attacks, which are run in two separate missions – one by the CIA and one for the Pentagon by its secretive special forces outfit, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
The research centres on countries outside the US’s declared war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The first strike of the Bush administration, outside Afghanistan, was on November 3 2002, in Yemen. However there was not a reported drone strike outside Iraq or Afghanistan for 18 months, until the CIA killed 6-8 in Pakistan on June 17 2004. That was more than three years into President Bush’s first term.
In total, there were 52 strikes under Bush, killing 416 people, of whom 167 were civilians.
According to the Bureau’s latest report, January 2015 saw an intensification of the US campaign in both Pakistan and Yemen.
- Most strikes in January in Pakistan since July 2014.
- Highest monthly casualty rate in Pakistan for six months.
- A confirmed CIA drone strike in Yemen reportedly kills a child.
- Two possible US strikes kill at least 45 in a day in Somalia.
The US has stepped up its drone campaign in Pakistan in January, launching more strikes and killing more people in a month than any since July 2014.
The CIA killed at least 26 people in five strikes giving January the highest casualty rate in six months.
Four of the five strikes reportedly targeted the Shawal area – a thickly wooded region with steep valleys that crosses the borders of North and South Waziristan, and of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is reportedly a major stronghold for armed groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The Pakistan military has continued its air and ground operation in North Waziristan. The ongoing offensive has reportedly pushed Arab and Central Asian fighters out of Pakistan, into Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal. US drone strikes have continued across the border, despite the Nato mission there having come to an end.
Every strike this month reportedly killed foreigners as well as local men. The nationality of these foreign fighters was not always clear, though they were often described as being Uzbeks. It is not clear if this is a reference to their nationality or ethnicity.
Some of the dead were described in media reports as being loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a well known warlord from the tribal areas. There were reports he was killed in the first strike of the year, but they later turned out to be false.
Also this month, the Bureau has completed an audit of its Pakistan drone data. It has now available to download as a spreadsheet.
* All but one of these actions have taken place during Obama’s presidency. Reports of incidents in Yemen often conflate individual strikes. The range we have recorded in US drone strikes and covert operations reflects this.
Two reported US drone strikes left at least six people dead in the final week of January. An unnamed US official confirmed the first attack was carried out by the CIA. It reportedly killed a child. The second strike remains unconfirmed.
These attacks came as armed rebels took over the streets of the capital, toppling the government of former president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. It is the worst political crisis in Yemen since the 2011 revolution that ultimately forced Hadi’s predecessor from power. The fall of Hadi’s government has robbed the US of a close ally. It has left the US “facing increasing difficulty acquiring intelligence” for its drone programme.
The first strike on January 26 hit four days after Hadi’s government resigned and the day after President Obama declared the US would continue its counter-terrorism operations in Yemen, despite the political situation. The CIA attack killed Mohammed Toaymen, a child reportedly aged between 12 and 15. He died alongside Awaid al Rashidi, a Saudi in his 30s, and Abdel Aziz al Zidani, a Yemeni.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said all three were members of the group, though an unnamed AQAP source made a distinction between a supporting member of the group and an operative with an active roll.