Second, given the CIA's request to "broaden the aperature" by
conducting "signature strikes" against anonymous AQAP militants based on
"patterns of suspicious behavior," the number of civilian casualties will only continue to increase. Today, Iona Craig reported
meeting a farmer in Abyan, Yemen, who witnessed two separate air
attacks that killed twenty-six people. According to the farmer, "They
were all local people, many of them friends of mine."
Third, although some of these strikes could have been carried out by
Yemeni forces, civilians on the ground are hardly able to distinguish
among Yemeni, CIA, and JSOC missiles. It would be difficult to devise a
counterterrorism strategy that did a better job at creating a common
enemy among victims or neutral third parties.
Fourth, the State Department report implies that additional "air
force training and technical capability" (presumably funded by U.S.
taxpayers) would prevent civilian casualties in the future. The United
States gave $326 million in
(overt) security assistance to Yemen between 2007 and 2011, which has
had negligible impact on the government's ability to combat AQAP. In
that same time period, AQAP has tripled in size and expanded its geographic reach and influence. According to Air Force General Ali Abdullah Saleh Al Haymi, "U.S. assistance was used to kill Yemeni people, not to kill al-Qaeda."
Beyond Yemen, the chapter on Turkey includes the section "Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life," which notes two unfortunate incidents:
On December 28, military aircraft killed 34 civilians
near the town of Uludere in an airstrike intended to kill members of the
PKK. The government's investigation was underway at year's end...
On several occasions throughout the year, the government used
military aircraft to attack areas where the PKK terrorist organization
was active in northern Iraq. According to press reports, fire from
Turkish aircraft killed seven civilians in Iraq on August 21.
Since November 2007, when the combined intelligence fusion cell opened in Ankara, the United States provides targeting information from manned and (more recently) unmanned aircraft to guide Turkish air strikes against suspected PKK members. Reportedly, a U.S. Predator drone provided
the initial video imagery that led to a Turkish airstrike against a
caravan of men, who turned out not to be PKK militants, but civilians.
Every single State Department Human Rights report--2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010--since
the U.S.-Turkey cell targeting opened warned of civilians killed in
counterterrorism operations where the PKK was the intended target. Does
the United States have a role in or responsibility for these
unintentional civilian deaths that have persisted year after year?
But the most remarkable and hypocritical aspect of U.S. unwillingness
to acknowledge its role in civilians killed during counterterrorism
operations, is that it reports other air strikes with collateral damage.
The chapter on Somalia, for example, contains this finding:
On October 30, a Kenyan military airstrike in the town of
Jilib, Middle Juba, reportedly hit an IDP camp. According to Doctors
Without Borders, its clinic received five dead and 45 wounded, mostly
women and children, from the incident. The Kenyan military spokesperson
dismissed reports of civilian casualties and instead claimed the aerial
bombs had hit al-Shabaab targets who used the IDPs as human shields.
Finally, the Pakistan
chapter reveals, "During the year there were reports of civilian
casualties and extrajudicial killings committed by government security
forces during operations against militants." There were also at least seventy CIA drone strikes in Pakistan over the same time period, at least some of which accidentally killed civilians and tribal police members. But you won't read about that in this report.
This article originally appeared at CFR.org, an Atlantic partner site.