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Drones and the Future of Armed ConflictEthical, Legal, and Strategic Implications$
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David Cortright, Rachel Fairhurst, and Kristen Wall

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226258058

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226258195.001.0001

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Understanding the Gulf between Public and US Government Estimates of Civilian Casualties in Covert Drone Strikes

Understanding the Gulf between Public and US Government Estimates of Civilian Casualties in Covert Drone Strikes

Chapter:
(p.180) Chapter Eleven Understanding the Gulf between Public and US Government Estimates of Civilian Casualties in Covert Drone Strikes
Source:
Drones and the Future of Armed Conflict
Author(s):

Chris Woods

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226258195.003.0011

Although the number of civilians killed by drone strikes has lessened in recent years, a significant discrepancy exists between public estimates of drone strike casualties and those acknowledged by the US government. The chapter seeks to establish the reasons behind these contradictory figures, taking the case of Pakistan as an example. The author presents information from a visit to South Waziristan and interviews with local residents in the village of Sara Rhoga. Drone strikes there in 2009 killed local Taliban fighters but also led to the deaths of unaffiliated citizens. The chapter compares casualty figures leaked by the US government and the notably higher figures released by reputable private organizations tracking civilian deaths. The author speculates that the continuing discrepancy between administration claims and media reports may be the result of a policy defining ‘military aged males’ as potential militants and thus legitimate military targets. The chapter concludes by calling for greater transparency and external oversight of the US drones program.

Keywords:   civilian casualties, Waziristan, military aged males, targeted killing, Pakistan

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