US drone war: 2014 in numbers

  • CIA Pakistan drone campaign reported to have killed nearly five times more people under Obama than under Bush
  • No confirmed civilian casualties in Pakistan for second year running
  • Domestic buildings continue to be the most frequently hit target in Pakistan
  • Highest ever number of drone strikes in a year in Somalia
  • Total people killed per strike in Yemen hits highest level

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December 2014 actions

Total CIA strikes in December: 4
Total people reported killed: 14-20

All 2014 actions

Total strikes: 25
Total reported killed: 114-183
Civilians reported killed: 0-2
Children reported killed: 0-2
Total reported injured: 44-67

All actions 2004 – 2014

Total Obama strikes: 357
Total US strikes since 2004: 408
Total reported killed: 2,410-3,902
Civilians reported killed: 416-959
Children reported killed: 168-204
Total reported injured: 1,133-1,706

The CIA’s strikes have been concentrated on North Waziristan where the Pakistan military has been conducting its own counter-terrorism operation.

The drone strikes began on June 11, five days before the Pakistani offensive. The timing fuelled speculation that the Pakistani and US governments had resumed coordination on drone strikes after an apparent deterioration of relations in 2011.

Pakistan’s military offensive came after the breakdown of peace talks between Islamabad and the Pakistan Taliban.

All but one of the CIA’s strikes this year hit in an area where the Pakistan military has been carrying out air or ground operations. Almost half the strikes were concentrated on the area in and around the North Waziristan town of Datta Khel – home to numerous Taliban fighters, weapons markets and bomb factories.

Five strikes hit in the Shawal area, a mountainous and thickly forested region that spreads across North Waziristan, South Waziristan and Afghanistan. It has long been a haven for armed groups because of its harsh, easily defended terrain.

While the concentration of CIA strikes would imply coordination with the Pakistani military, the reported affiliation of the victims suggests the two are not working from the same target sheet. The US appears to be targeting members of al Qaeda and groups, like the Haqqani Network, that concentrate on attacking US and allied troops across the border in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani military meanwhile has focused on militants fighting Islamabad such as the Pakistan Taliban.

Although the two types of groups are often aligned, sometimes Washington and Islamabad’s priorities diverge.

On September 28 for example a CIA drone was reported to have killed between two and four people near Wana, the capital of South Waziristan – an area that the Pakistani military claims to control. The strike reportedly killed members of a so-called “good” Taliban faction that eschewed attacking Pakistan in favour of fighting across the border in Afghanistan.

This strike, like all but three of the attacks in 2014, reportedly hit a house. This year a Bureau investigation showed the CIA has consistently targeted domestic buildings more than any other target type in Pakistan. This contrasts with the approach in neighbouring Afghanistan, where drone strikes on buildings have been banned in all but the most urgent situations since 2008 as part of measures to protect civilian lives.

Overall, there were fewer strikes in 2014 than any year since 2007 – the year before the drone war began to escalate.

President Barack Obama’s incoming administration dramatically increased the rate of strikes in 2009. The president is coming to the end of his sixth year in office and the CIA has now carried out more than 350 strikes during his tenure. This means there have been more than seven times as many drone strikes during Obama’s time in office than both of President Bush’s terms as of the end of 2014. The strikes under Obama are reported to have killed at least 2000 people, nearly five times as many as the 410 reported killed under Bush.

While there have been more strikes in the past six years, the casualty rate has been lower under Obama than under his predecessor. The CIA killed eight people, on average, per strike during the Bush years. Under Obama, it is less than six. The civilian casualty rate is lower too – more than three civilians were reported killed per strike during the past presidency. Under Obama, less than one.

There were no confirmed civilian casualties in Pakistan in the past year, as in 2013. There were two reported civilian casualties in 2014 but, like the four reported civilian deaths in 2013, the Bureau has as yet been unable to confirm the reports.

The article was published at US drone war: 2014 in numbers.

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