4 January 2014, 13:51

US drones: War above the law

US drones: War above the law

The US is due to release a new national security strategy early this year to define targets for the next stage of fighting Al-Qaeda. The document is being drafted amid the growing criticism of the ways of the fighting in question. The extensive use of drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen raises numerous legal and other questions.

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The UN's special rapporteurs on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson and Christof Heyns point out in their report that the use of drones by the United States is provoking chaos and fresh military conflicts across the world, adding that the US attacks fighters in other countries arguing that the fight against Al-Qaeda has no borders. But if other countries follow suit and strike at targets in the neighbouring countries, the situation will develop on the 'domino' principle. When the US delivers firepower against targets, it makes use of loopholes in international law, which makes no mention of drones, the British Cabinet Member, Ed Davey, points out. According to him, this kind of action creates a dangerous precedent for infringing on nations' sovereignty.

The International Crisis Group pointed out in its report in May 2013 that drones are becoming ineffective in fighting terrorism, since they fail to address the main problems. The authors are certain that a missile blast may prevent a group of militants from crossing the border into Afghanistan to attack NATO troops there, but it is incapable of halting their rearmament, re-grouping or recruiting new members. Not really, objects an expert with the Independent Military Review Russian weekly newspaper, Vladimir Shcherbakov, and elaborates.

"The United States has been using its drones to wipe out terrorist leaders. It is immutable law of any warfare that the commander should be wiped out first, so his unit would lose fighting capacity. The killed commander will clearly be replaced by someone else, but the militants' cell will suffer a blow, above all, if the late commander was involved in financial items".

US drones have wiped out 20 key Al-Qaeda leaders, over 2,200 militants, and from 400 to 900 local residents in Pakistan since 2004. Given that most extremist bases are located in the Pashto Tribal Area along the Pakistani-Afghan border, the Pakistani Army can do little, if anything, there because the Area is a semi-autonomous region. In short, it is only a missile that can kill the leader of militants. But the local population and human rights activists throughout the world are outraged at the attacks. To placate their anger, President Barack Obama has suggested taking the drones from the CIA and handing them over to the military, Vladimir Shcherbakov says, and elaborates.

"The issue has been continually raised of enforceability of killing citizens of some country on that country's territory by drones, controlled from overseas. There is quite a difference between the drones launched by the military and/or by a security service. The US may well seek to add transparency to the attacks by charging the military with the objective. But then, this is hardly feasible, since the Pentagon's secret operations service also keeps its moves a secret".

The attempts to make the agencies join forces in controlling drones have thus far proved futile, specifically because their equipment and communications channels are incompatible. But the main reason, according to The Washington Post, is that the CIA is unprepared to make any concessions in the "drone war". So drones will continue to be used until banned for these kinds of purposes by international law.

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