Thursday, December 3, 2009

C.I.A. Drone Attacks Expanding

The New York Times has another story on the CIA's drone offensive in Pakistan. The article titled, C.I.A. Is Expanding Drone Assaults Inside Pakistan, estimates that more than 400 enemy fighters have been killed by drones. Estimates of the civilian deaths range from a low of 20 to a high of around 250.

One of Washington’s worst-kept secrets, the drone program is quietly hailed by counterterrorism officials as a resounding success, eliminating key terrorists and throwing their operations into disarray. But despite close cooperation from Pakistani intelligence, the program has generated public anger in Pakistan, and some counterinsurgency experts wonder whether it does more harm than good.

Assessments of the drone campaign have relied largely on sketchy reports in the Pakistani press, and some have estimated several hundred civilian casualties. Saying that such numbers are wrong, one government official agreed to speak about the program on the condition of anonymity. About 80 missile attacks from drones in less than two years have killed “more than 400” enemy fighters, the official said, offering a number lower than most estimates but in the same range. His account of collateral damage, however, was strikingly lower than many unofficial counts: “We believe the number of civilian casualties is just over 20, and those were people who were either at the side of major terrorists or were at facilities used by terrorists.”

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