Archive for category Pakistan

The cost and consequences of exposing the drone wars

by Chris Cole

Reprinted from Drone Wars UK blog


As secret and unaccountable US and British drone strikes continue in remote corners of the globe, closer to home (but firmly behind closed doors), the drone industry continues to research and develop a drone-filled future.

Bristol billboard exposes drone conference

Over the past couple of weeks, protesters in the UK and the US have gathered to turn the spotlight on the increasingly secret use and development of armed drones. In Bristol, at the beginning of April, the great and good of the drone industry came together at the Annual International UAV Conference to be met with a good-natured, noisy protest.  Meanwhile, across the Atlantic at the Creech Air Force base, members of the faith-based group Nevada Desert Experience delivered an ‘Indictment for the Violation of Human Rights’ to the commander of the base.  At each demonstration protesters were arrested and jailed.

(read the rest of the report here)


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Drones Are Unreliable

The loss of a super secret US spy drone recently in Iran has drawn attention to the unreliability of drones. The Drones Crash Database has catalogued a large number of known drone crashes, and there must have been many more crashes and ‘loss of control events’ which are unreported in conflict zones like Afghanistan.

Anna Mulrine, of the Christian Science Monitor, reported recently in Alaska, on the problem of unreliable drones.

One of the problems of drones is the long and complicated communication networks needed to control drones remotely, and their vulnerability to failure and disruption. Another problem is the two second delay that occurs in electronic signals from drone operators in the US to drone being used in Central Asia or the Middle East, and back again. (Much like the scene in a digital camera that changes after the shutter is pressed but before the picture is taken a drone operator is always two seconds behind what is happening where the drone is).

Blogger Jeffery Carr, has reported on studies by the US government that detail the reliability of drones. Drones are particularly vulnerable to disruption in satellite communications, and may be vulnerable to cyber attacks, which is the technique that Iran claims to have used to capture the American MQ-170 drone earlier this month.

David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen, re-reporting information published in the Christian Science Monitor describes an Iranian scientist who claims that Iran reprogrammes GPS coordinate and jams satellite communications to trick American drones into landing.

Interestingly, there have been no new drone strikes in Pakistan in the past month, though this is likely due more to the fallout of from the disintegrating relations with Pakistan than concerns over drones being captured.

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Oxford Research Group Releases Discussion Report on Drone Attacks

The Oxford Study Group discussion paper on drone attacks, titled DISCUSSION PAPER 2: DRONE ATTACKS, INTERNATIONAL LAW, AND THE RECORDING OF CIVILIAN CASUALTIES OF ARMED CONFLICT can be found here.

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Pakistan Ups the Ante, Wants Drones Out

Pakistan is asking the US CIA to drastically cut back drone attacks on Taliban insurgents in Pakistan.

The New York Times reports that Pakistan may ask as many as 335 US CIA employees to leave Pakistan. The Sunday Times has reported in the past that the CIA is secretly using airbases in Southern Pakistan to launch drones. This was confirmed by analysis of Google Earth photos.

Many CIA officials in Pakistan may be involved in selecting targets and managing information flows after attacks. Reports of drone attacks in Pakistan are usually accompanied by a statement by ‘an unnamed official’ claiming that all the dead were insurgents. Many CIA agents in Pakistan are probably engaged in managing the network of informants decribed in Wired Magazine.

There have been many allegations that the majority of persons killed in the CIA drone strikes have been civilians, something that the US has always strenuously denied.

Pakistan is also demanding joint selection of targets.

Pakistan has in the past asked for its own armed drones, something the US has always refused to do.  In 2010 the US offered to supply Pakistan with ‘Shadow’ drones, unarmed and for surveillance only.

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Canadian Using Russian Helicopters in FATA??

Canada has been leasing Russian Mi-17 helicopters in Afghanistan, and doing so outside the normal procurement process.

Thomas E Ricks, in Foreign Policy Magazine, speculates that this is so that Canadian forces can be flown across the Pakistani frontier into the Frontier areas, without arousing special attention, as Pakistani forces use the same helicopter. ‘Starbuck’, a commenter, suggests that the Canadian military is leasing the Russian helicopters because they are training Afghan forces, who are more likely to be using Russian helicopters.

This more recent story from the CBC doesn’t mention the FATA possibility but focusses on why Canada doesn’t buy helicopters from Russia, rather than the more expensive ones from the USA.

This article in Canadian American Strategic Review suggests that the idea of leasing Russian helicopters had been around for several years, due to the availability of the helicopters, their low cost, and the proximity of the manufacturing plant and parts supply to Afghanistan. Mi-17 helicopters cost one fifth the price of alternate Cormorant helicopters, and one tenth the price of Chinooks.

This article reports the announcement of the earlier lease of Russian Mi-8 helicopters in 2008. These were commercially available Russian helicopters (the Mi-17 is an ‘export’ version of the Mi-8).

Incredibly, the original lease involved the use of Russian pilots some of whom had piloted helicopters during the Russion occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

It was reported in November, 2008, that the US forces in Afghanistan had purchased dozens of the Russian helicopters, from Rosoboronexport.


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Death by Drones Update

There were reports of five more people killed by ‘suspected US drone’ attacks in North Wiziristan on Thursday, 10 November 2010. At least six missiles were fired by one drone, killing five people described as Islamic militants, according to reports.

‘Unnamed security sources’ were on hand to provide details of the identity of the dead and an explanation of why they were killed.

Fifteen ‘militants’ were killed in Pakistan on 16 November, 2010 by US drones, according to ASDNews. Unnamed security officials said the attack was on an insurgent training centre, in Ghulam Khan village, in North Waziristan.

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