Thursday, July 24, 2014

Who is dying in Afghanistan’s 1,000-plus drone strikes?

On the afternoon of September 7 last year, a truck made its way along a remote road in Watapur, a region in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. A local farmer, Miya Jan, heard a buzzing overhead, and looked up to see a drone above him, he told the Los Angeles Times. Minutes later, he heard an explosion.

Reaching the site, he realised the mangled vehicle belonged to his cousin. Among the bodies, he recognised his brother and his brother’s family. "There were pieces of my family all over the road," he told the newspaper. "I picked up those pieces from the road and from the truck and wrapped them in a sheet to bury them."

But in the strike's aftermath, military authorities and a UN team disagreed over how many civilians died in the attack, with the UN estimating 10 non-combatant deaths and the military acknowledging just three.

Afghanistan is the most heavily drone-bombed country in the world - the Watapur strike is one of more than 1,000 such attacks known to have taken place in the country.

Almost nothing is known about where and when those strikes took place, or who they killed. But what little information emerges raises troubling questions about civilian deaths.

A new study by the Bureau published today, examines the official opaqueness that surrounds drone operations and explores whether outside organisations – such as the Bureau – might be able to lift this veil of secrecy.

The Bureau’s two-month study was supported by the Remote Control Project, an initiative backed by the Network for Social Change. Report below: 

Who is dying in Afghanistan’s 1,000-plus drone strikes?