Craig Whitlock from the Washington Post reveals more details on the joint U.S.-Turkey Predator surveillance program. Despite only providing geo-spatial “intelligence”, it is another instance of U.S. military personnel (and private contractors) being enrolled in a low-level “kill chain” without Congressional authorization. Such an isolated node feeds into a planetary-wide “resonance chamber”, to use Deleuze and Guattari’s term for state power: the concentration and coding of various flows into a single machine–the Predator Empire.
“The State is a phenomenon of intraconsistency. It makes points resonate together, points that are not necessarily already town poles but very diverse points of order, geographic, ethnic, linguistic, moral, economic, technological particularities. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 433.).
“The State is not a point taking all the others upon itself, but a resonance chamber for them all.” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, p. 224.)
Since November 2011, the U.S. Air Force has been flying unarmed drones from Incirlik Air Base, providing the Turkish military with geo-spatial intelligence on the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) rebels that operate along the Turkey-Iraq border. The Kurdish group has long sought to create an autonomous territorial enclave in Turkey, launching attacks from the mountainous cross-border region. In turn, Turkey has responded with artillery volleys and airstrikes–destabilizing an already volatile area.
The four drones used in the operation were surplus from U.S. operations in Iraq. According to Whitlock, Turkey’s leaders feared that after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, interest in PKK would similarly fade, so they invited U.S. drones to Turkish soil. Neither country has made much information on the joint program public, and the drones at Incirlik are kept hidden in an unobtrusive hangar.
Pilots from 6,000 miles away, at Whiteman Air Force base in Missouri, control the drones by satellite link once they have taken off (it takes about 5 hours for them to reach the Iraq border). The unmanned operation is manned by about three dozen personnel from the U.S. Air Force’s 414th Expeditionary Reconnaisance Squadron. Operation Nomad Shadow also uses private contractors, from the firm Battlespace Flight Services.
Once in Iraq, the Predators fly in a rectangular formation, known as the “box”, for up to 12 hours. When the drones re-enter Turkish airspace, they must switch off their sensory equipment. U.S. geo-spatial analysts then evaluate the footage before transmitting to a “fusion cell” in Ankara, a joint U.S-Turkish intelligence center. This transmission is delayed by around 15-20 minutes to allow U.S. drones to clear the flight box in anticipation of Turkish “kinetic force”.
The diffusion of drones from “hotspots” to “dark spots” encompasses unmanned aircraft hovering over the Sahara earlier this year, when the U.S. Air Force began tracking al-Qaeda fighters in northern Mali. The Horn of Africa region is now buzzing with drones, which are flown from bases in Ethiopia, Djibouti, the Seychelles, as well as Qatar, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. Drones have been touted as a solution to drug smuggling in South and Central America. Speaking of counternarcotic operations, Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, chief of the U.S. Southern Command, said “Surveillance drones could really help us out and really take the heat and wear and tear off of some of our manned aviation assets”. In 2012 Columbian armed forces killed 32 “high-value narco-terrorists” after the U.S. military helped pinpoint their location.
But it’s not always so smooth sailing. In December 2011, months after the first phase of joint U.S.-Turkish operations, Predator drones wrongly identified 34 “smugglers” as “terrorists” crossing from Iraq into Turkey. All were killed. The Turks later denied the incident. And in 2012, a Predator drone unexplicably crashed in an inhabited area of the borderlands, proving a propaganda coup for the PPK.