09:57 GMT21 January 2021
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    Experts say that the US armed forces are using a growing number of mercenaries or contractors to operate lethal drone attacks as regular troops are increasingly unwilling to do so.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The US armed forces are using a growing number of mercenaries or contractors to operate lethal drone attacks as regular troops are increasingly unwilling to do so, experts told Sputnik.

    “‘Private contractors’, mercenaries, have been involved in US drone surveillance and attack for some time, certainly with the CIA, and most probably not only in intelligence analysis, but also in the roles of pilots and sensor operators,” KnowDrones.com Coordinator Nick Mottern told Sputnik on Friday.

    The sensor operators are the people who pull the trigger to launch Hellfire missiles and bombs, he said.

    The Bureau of Investigative Journalism said that hundreds of private contractors were aiding the US military and Special Operations forces to analyze drone intelligence used to target terrorist groups.
    © AP Photo / Northrop Grumman via U.S. Navy, Erik Hildebrandt
    Mottern noted the need to hire mercenaries indicates that the US military is not able, for whatever reason, to find enough people within its ranks to do such work.

    “This is… because it is involving an increasing amount of killing, and, I suspect, an increasing amount of PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder].”

    The situation, Mottern continued, presents a major legal problem for the contracting companies and the military alike, because of the question who should be held accountable for the killing going on conducted by drones.

    “[T]he critical decisions of identifying ‘the enemy’ are being made by civilians who are under no official chain of command,” he added.

    All drone killing remains clearly in violation of international law and US domestic law against assassination, Mottern pointed out.

    Yet, “here we have the US paying civilians to do illegal killing without even the legal accountability applied to the US military,” he said. “[T]he mercenaries are accountable only to their employers who most assuredly are encouraging high kill totals to ensure continued contracts. “

    This lack of accountability and of any clear chain of command “obviously means dramatically increased jeopardy for the people under surveillance and drone attack; that is a dramatic increase in the number of people being killed and terrorized,” Mottern explained.

    The unwillingness of the US military to comment on this situation is evidence of its illegality, the activist argued.

    The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), Mottern said, has documented up to nearly 6,000 people killed by US drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, not including those killed in Afghanistan before 2015, or those killed by drone attacks in Iraq, Libya or possibly Syria.

    “The extent of drone surveillance, killing and terrorism going on is very likely far beyond what is documented by [the BIJ figures],” Mottern warned.

    Upstate Drone Acton activist Ed Kinane told Sputnik on Friday that the scale of drone operations and the amount of carnage they will inflict looks likely to increase in coming months.

    “The problem isn’t ‘lack of personnel’; the problem is an overabundance of opportunities for surveillance and killing — thanks to the US military’s drive for assassination, intervention and invasion,” Kinane said.

    The continued and increasing cycles of war generate further profit for major defense contractors in the United States and its close allies, Kinane claimed.

    “More war equals more profit, [therefore] perpetual war equals perpetual profit [and] more regional instability equals more opportunities to secure control over resources of fractured nations,” Kinane argued.

    The intelligence analysts now employed by the Pentagon will likely eventually be involved in domestic police and intelligence work as well, Kinane predicted.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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