Details of 99 UK drone strikes in Afghanistan revealed


RAF pilots control Reaper drones at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan

The British Ministry of Defence has carried out 248 drone strikes in Afghanistan to date, of which 60% are ‘secret and unreported’, a report has revealed.

The report, by respected blog Drone Wars UK, looks back through operational updates published by the Royal Air Force (RAF) since June 2008. It is the first time that UK drone attacks in Afghanistan have been collated and charted.

However, the group suspect their list is merely a ‘peak behind the curtain’.  Details of only 99 of the 248 drone strikes have been revealed by the RAF (the total number being obtained through a Freedom of Information request), and the group feels that reports may have been ‘cherry-picked’, possibly to tone down collateral damage.

For instance, says the report,’a British strike that took place on 25th March 2011 in which at least four civilians were killed was not mentioned in the weekly reports and all reports of Reaper activity ceased for eight weeks after’.

Drone Wars UK has asked the MoD to release details of the circumstances of UK drone strikes, but have thus far been denied the information.

Nevertheless, the database presents some fascinating insights into the UK’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles to track and target ‘high value’ insurgent targets.

From June 2011 onwards, the RAF reports began to include casualty figures in some of their reports. The Drone Wars database reveals that there have been a total of 52 people reported killed across 18 strikes.

Drone Wars UK – Key Findings

  • Two of the strikes were targeted at a ‘high value insurgent’ and a ‘known insurgent’, while a third was detailed as ‘a significant operation’.  The group commented that ‘these could potentially be targeted killings’.
  • 40% of the strikes detailed by the RAF targeted ‘attacking insurgents’, ‘insurgents firing on friendly forces’,  or insurgents ‘preparing’ or ‘massing’ to attack.
  • 17 strikes targeted insurgents who were ‘active’, ‘armed’ or ‘committing hostile acts’.  ‘It is not clear in all cases what this actually means’, commented the Drone Wars UK team.
  • Another 13 of the reported drone strikes were targeted against alleged militants planting IEDs, and six strikes targeted weapons caches or explosive production facilities.

The RAF reports also revealed that on two occasions, ‘missiles were diverted away from their targets…as civilians had approached the target area.’

The list is intended to be an ongoing resource, regularly updated as new information is received.

You can read the full list here.

Last week, the Bureau published Somalia’s Hidden War, a report revealing that up to 21 US military strikes in Somalia since 2007 have killed as many as 169 people.