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Shot Down? Suspected US Drone Crashes in Somalia

Though not at war with Somalia, the drone program continues in the skies above Mogadishu and elsewhere

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Citing local officials and witnesses, Reuters on Tuesday is reporting that a suspected US military drone has crashed in Somalia.

According to the news agency:

Lower Shabelle region governor Abdikadir Mohamed Nur said that al Shabaab militants had shot at the aircraft over the town of Bulamareer for several hours before it crashed.

"Finally they hit it and the drone crashed," Nur told Reuters.

The insurgents confirmed that a drone had crashed but did not say if they had downed it.

"A U.S. drone has just crashed near one of the towns under the administration of the Mujahideen in the Lower Shabelle region," al Shabaab said on a social media account.

Although the United States does not report its activities in Somalia, drones have been used in recent years to kill Somali and foreign al Shabaab fighters.

One area resident told Reuters that al Shabaab fighters had cordoned off the area and would not let others near the downed aircraft.

Though details remain murky, the incident in Somalia fulfills the arguments of those critical of the US drone program who say that operating clandestine operations on multiple continents against loosely affiliated networks remains the flawed strategy of US intelligence agencies.

As human rights advocates warn, the operation of US drones inflames anti-American sentiment abroad and does more to harm US national security in the long term than it helps in the short term.

In response to President Obama's speech on foreign policy last week, critics of the drone program have said that though the president's rhetoric was a step in the right direction, his policy recommendations come up far short in terms of actually changing the manner in which the US employs its drone technology.

As Christopher R. W. Dietrich, an assistant professor of the history at Fordham University, argues in a special commentary at CNN on Tuesday, the US drone program is subjecting the nation's moral authority to ultimate decay. Deitrich writes:

Obama and supporters of targeted killings argue that drone strikes have benefits. Their unique capabilities have allowed the United States to annihilate the governance of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, they say. The drone program has also limited the operational capacity of al Qaeda members in Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, and Somalia.

Yet while Obama described drone strikes in the same breath as “a necessary evil,” defining unmanned aerial violence as indispensable to U.S. national security is wrongheaded. As Micah Zenko’s special report for the Council on Foreign Relations on reforming drone policy notes, the drawbacks actually outweigh the benefits.

Most importantly, targeted killings alienate the United States in international opinion. A joint report by the Stanford International Human Rights Clinic and the New York University Global Justice Clinic, “Living Under Drones,” confirms this position. The authors concluded after nine months of interviews not only that drones kill innocent civilians on a regular basis, but that drone policy itself has a broader injurious effect: increased anti-American sentiment in the international community.

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