Obama Puts US Drone Program Back into Deadly High Gear

MQ-9 Reaper Drone as it returns to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan from a mission, December 2010. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Obama Puts US Drone Program Back into Deadly High Gear

Pending confirmation of John Brennan as new CIA chief has done nothing to quiet controversial program

The latest strike in a deadly string of U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan killed up to six people Thursday--the seventh strike in ten days which have left over 40 dead in 2013 so far.

The recent surge in U.S. strikes in Pakistan amounts to the heaviest concentration of strikes in the country since last August and signals that the menacing presence of U.S. drones in the skies of Pakistan are on a troubling increase and not, as some had speculated, on a decline.

Pakistani security officials said the strike took aim on a village in northwest Pakistan.

"Six drones were in the sky at the time of the attack. One drone fired two missiles at a house while a second drone fired another two at a motorcycle," a security official based in Miranshah toldAgence France-Presse.

"The compound was completely destroyed, bodies of all those killed were badly mutilated," the official added, putting the death toll at six.

The sudden resurgence in Pakistan strikes, coinciding with similar campaigns in Yemen, Somalia, and other countries in the region, signals, as Spencer Ackerman of the Danger Roomwrites, the "impending arrival at the CIA of the drone campaign's chief advocate," i.e. Obama's top choice for new head of the CIA John Brennan.

Ackerman writes:

While the statistical sample is small, it's starting to sound like the drone campaign over Pakistan is ticking back up after a recent decline. A trio of drone-fired missile strikes between Wednesday and Thursday killed a Pakistani Taliban commander and at least 19 others. Another on Sunday reportedly killed another 17 people [...]

The drone strikes are likely to play a central role in the Senate confirmation hearing of John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism official whom President Obama nominated Monday to lead the CIA. Brennan, a CIA veteran, has been at the center of the drone campaign in Obama's first term, even providing Obama with the names of suspected militants marked for a robotic death.

President Obama increased drone strikes in Pakistan when he took office in 2009, with 53 attacks that year alone--more than in the prior five consecutive years in total.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 2,627 and 3,457 people have been reportedly killed by US drones in Pakistan since 2004, including between 475 and nearly 900 civilians.

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