Douglas Farrah in his Counterterrorism Blog, notes that Viktor Bout, the arms dealer recently extradited from Thailand to the United States, had allegedly tried to sell drones to agents he apparently believed represented FARC guerillas.
This is a sign that drones may become increasingly sold to, and used by, non state agents, like guerrilla armies and criminal organisations. Can we expect to see drones used to smuggle drugs across borders?
It is also a warning to arm traders that it is dangerous to play both sides of the fence. Bout reportedly was used by American official many times over the years to move arms into conflict zones when ‘deniability’ was required. ie the ability for the US to do something, while denying they were doing something.
According to Farrah, Bout “flew for the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan and provided planes to the Taliban, flew for the UN on relief and peacekeeping missions, and for the US military in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq.”
John C K Daly, in Global Policy Forum, suggests that although Bout had had dealings with many insurgent forces and terrorist organisations, the Bush administration found him useful in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, and gave him amnesty for his other activities.