The New York Times reported this morning that in the past two years the US military has killed more than 400 militants in 80 drone strikes for the loss of only 20 civilian casualties.
Pentagon sources credit the increased sophistication of modern weapons systems and intelligence collection platforms for this record of success. This is a bold claim and one that Amnesty International has been trying to investigate on the ground in a very hostile operational environment.
At present, reliable facts are hard to come by. However, we can say with the confidence derived from hard-earned experience that these numbers are unlikely to stand up to scrutiny. A similar conflict in which airborne platforms have been used by a sophisticated modern military to target insurgent and other armed groups is the second Intifada which engulfed the Gaza Strip in September 2000.
Between September 2000 and September 2002 Israel’s intelligence-led policy of targeted killing claimed the lives of approximately eighty Palestinian militants and fifty innocent bystanders.
In one well-documented incident in July 2002 the Israelis dropped a laser-guided bomb on a house occupied by Hamas official Salah Shahada. Shahada was killed along with thirteen others, ten of whom were children.