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The failure of US intelligence and disregard for civilian lives

MQ-9 Reaper UAV 29 November 2008. Image: Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt

The United States military has come under intense scrutiny over its procedures to guard against civilian casualties after a high profile drone strike in Kabul Afghanistan claimed the lives of 10 civilians, including seven children, on August 29th 2022.

The US military initially announced that it had successfully targeted a Daesh terrorist who was linked to the attack on Kabul airport that killed over 100 people, including 13 US troops.

A recent study by the Rand Corporation Think Tank concluded that systemic weaknesses at the Department of Defence were resulting in it falling short of its duties on civilian casualties.

It revealed that during conflicts the US military's access to targeted areas is limited both before and after strikes, and it must rely on intelligence gathered remotely using sources such as drone surveillance and satellite imagery.

Well, the United States regularly violates both US and international laws related to war. But I do think the US needs to completely reevaluate its use of drones entirely. We know because of brave whistleblowers like Daniel Hale, and other journalists who have reported on drones and drone use that the US often uses faulty intelligence to conduct these strikes, which do result in lots of civilian casualties.

Danak Katovich, Peace Activist, CODEPINK

Faulty Data Gathering Strategies

The Rand study, which was required by congressional legislation, found that the problem is compounded by the US military when it fails to adequately talk to people from outside the US government or armed forces who might have access to information on the ground.

After the Rand study was released, the US Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, issued a memorandum calling for the creation of a plan on civilian harm mitigation and response in the months to come as well as the creation of a civilian protection centre later this year.

A senior Pentagon official later admitted that the department's data gathering strategies have been faulty and expressed a need to incorporate the figures from other sources in American tallies.

The US runs nearly 700 overseas military bases in at least 80 countries around the world.

Such a widespread military presence implies that Washington has been involved in many wars, whether covertly or overtly, to secure its national interests.

Those wars almost always result in many civilian casualties.

The question remains how the US is planning to reduce the number of civilians who pay the ultimate price of the war on their country with their lives?

I think, for many reasons, the US needs to completely reevaluate its foreign policy. We need to move away from war first and foremost because of the impact it has internationally on countries like Yemen and Afghanistan and other countries the US has been involved in a war inside of in the last few years.

Also the environmental impact of war; war and militarism is driving the climate crisis. And also we need to do things in the United States, like cut the Pentagon budget, to move us away from war and put more money towards things that actually matter, like free health care for all Americans and that sort of thing.

Danak Katovich, Peace Activist, CODEPINK

That being said, the simplest solution to the problem of civilian casualties overseas seems to be not conducting any such operations in the first place.

The US military's track record in accepting accountability is far from acceptable, and at the same time, the countries where the US has deployed troops, are calling for their withdrawal.


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