The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has released a 6-month update on drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The trend in Pakistan is unmistakable: a steep decline in the number of strikes, the number of deaths per strike, and the total number of civilian casualties in the past 6 months–itself part of a wider decline in drone strikes since the “high” year of 2010.
“Much has been written about the steep decline in the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan: strikes are now at their lowest level since early 2008. The number of reported civilian deaths is also at an all-time low, a trend first high-lighted by the Bureau in 2012.”
“The average number of people being killed in each drone strike has fallen sharply too, an analysis of the Bureau’s data shows. An average of four people now die in each attack – just a third of the rate in the first six months of 2010.”
The CIA’s drone strikes now resemble the Bush-era strikes of 2004-2008, no doubt a result of reigning in “signature strikes” that target groups of “suspicious” “military-aged” males. It’s also likely that there are simply less “high value targets” to kill. After all, al-Qaeda was never the “existential threat” to the United States it was made out to be, and the TTP (and Afghan Taliban) even less so. The irony is unmistakable: a billion-dollar cyborgian war machine, chasing a ragtag militia descended from Cold War-era proxies, funded by the Reagan administration.
The other trend that the numbers don’t speak to is the geographic spread of Washington’s unmanned surveillance, Special Forces training, and proxy wars across the continent of Africa. The reason given for this 21st century “scramble” is to contain al-Qaeda-linked “affiliates” that have spread from the heartland of Pakistan’s tribal areas. Expect the extrajudicial “Pakistan model” to be endlessly replicated and refracted in the name of creating an “arc of stability”.
Whack a mole?