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former IAEA Director-General

Drones: A Challenge to the Law of Armed Conflict
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Arms Control NOW

Authored by Rachel Stohl on November 22, 2016

This op-ed originally appeared in The Cipher Brief.

Over the last eight years, President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism policy has in large part been defined by drone strikes against a number of terrorist targets around the world. Indeed, the U.S. drone program is a global enterprise, with bases in at least 10 countries, lethal operations in at least seven countries, and coordination of drone operations with numerous partners and allies.

But even as the U.S. drone program has become a cornerstone of counterterrorism policy, its implementation has raised a number of questions, particularly with regard to the use of drones outside active combat zones or in countries not engaged in war with the United States. Central to these questions has been the ongoing secrecy surrounding the U.S. lethal drone program, including limited details on casualty figures, a lack of information on the legal framework supporting the program, little insight into policy guidance, and next to no information on how targeted drone strikes fit in with broader strategic objectives.

One of the main challenges with the U.S. drone program is that it has been relatively difficult to assess the basis for and impact of the program itself. Over the last eight years, the administration has released very few documents relating to the legal justification for the lethal drone program, and those that have been released have been primarily only under court order. It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 that the Obama Administration released the first government-provided data on casualties of U.S. “counterterrorism strikes,” as well as a heavily redacted version of the Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG) that governs the use of force and armed drone strikes outside of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, countries that are considered “areas of active hostilities.”

For the complete article, visit The Cipher Brief.

Author: 
Rachel Stohl