America’s Drone Dilemma

Last year, US President Barack Obama Obama promised a change of policy on American drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere, indicating that he would require “near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set.” Unfortunately, this promise has yet to be fulfilled.

PRINCETON – Last month, Faisal bin Ali Jaber traveled from his home in Yemen to Washington, DC, to ask why a United States drone had fired missiles at, and killed, his brother-in-law, a cleric who had spoken out against Al Qaeda. Also killed in the attack was Jaber’s nephew, a policeman who had come to offer protection to his uncle.

Congressional representatives and government officials met Jaber and expressed their condolences, but provided no explanations. Nor has the US admitted that it made a mistake.

A week later, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, did apologize for a drone attack that killed a child and seriously wounded two women in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. The incident’s timing was particularly unfortunate, as it coincided with efforts to reach an agreement to keep a residual deployment of US troops in Afghanistan beyond the planned 2014 departure of foreign combat forces. Afghan President Hamid Karzai had referred to civilian casualties caused by US forces as a reason for not signing the agreement. “For years,” Karzai said in a statement issued after the strike, “our people are being killed and their houses are being destroyed under the pretext of the war on terror.”

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