Drone strikes in Pakistan

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A General Atomics MQ-9 remotely controlled drone . Such missiles are controlled by radio remote control, the operator sees the images from an on-board video camera.

The drone strikes in Pakistan are a covert campaign carried out by the CIA since 2004 as part of the war on terror . Remote-controlled, unmanned drones attack targets in Pakistan , mostly to target and kill terror suspects identified by the US authorities . The former federally administered tribal areas , part of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since 2018 , are particularly affected. The operations are strictly confidential by the United States . It was not until January 30, 2012 that US President Barack Obama officially confirmed the attacks.

The international legal basis for the attacks is controversial. In official hearings, US lawyers have described the practice as a “clear breach of international law ”. Among other things, the fact that several hundred bystanders, including numerous children, have already been killed in the attacks with Hellfire missiles fired by the drones has led to continued criticism from both the United States and other countries.

Studies on the effect, extent and number of victims

BIJ report

In August 2011, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) submitted a report on the attacks, for which around 2,000 media reports were evaluated. According to this, at least 291 missions have been carried out since 2004 in which between 2292 and 2863 people died. According to the investigation, at least 1104 were injured. 126 armed Islamist leaders known by name and several hundred Islamist militants were killed. About 385 to 775 bystanders, including 164 children, were killed in the attacks.

Since Barack Obama took office , the CIA has expanded its attacks. An operation was carried out approximately every four days. According to the BIJ report, a total of 236 attacks with at least 1,842 dead were carried out between then and August 2011.

Study Living Under Drones

In September 2012, Stanford University and New York University published the Living Under Drones study on the impact of drone attacks on civilians. The study was commissioned by the London human rights organization Reprieve on behalf of the Pakistani Noor Khan , who lost a family member in a drone attack. The researchers interviewed 130 people from the affected areas, among them 69 survivors of attacks or the bereaved of victims. Accordingly, many people in the affected areas suffer from fear of the attacks around the clock. Many children leave school because they either fear attacks or have to compensate for the loss of income from drone victims in the family. The study particularly criticized the practice of “double attacks”. This would specifically kill helpers who would take care of the injured after the first attack by repeated attacks. This would mean that fewer and fewer people dared to help the injured after an attack. Anxiety disorders have also been reported in people in the affected areas. Due to the constant presence of the drones in the region, which is noticeable through flight noises, people are constantly afraid for their lives. People would also be afraid of gathering in groups of just a few people, because this could already trigger an attack.

The Living Under Drones study also questioned the strategic use of the attacks. There are signs that they will make it easier for armed militias to recruit new members. In 2012, for example, it replaced the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base as the main argument. At this point, three quarters of all Pakistanis are said to have seen the US as an enemy.

According to the study, between June 2004 and September 2012, between 2,562 and 3,325 people died from drone attacks. The study names the number of civilians among the dead between 474 and 881, including 176 children. Since the affected region is cordoned off by the Pakistani military, no verified figures could be recorded.

Pakistani Government Secret Report

In July 2013, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) published a secret report from the Pakistani government. The paper, which is based on three different sources, deals with the victims of the attacks between January 13, 2006 and October 24, 2009. During this period, 75 attacks are said to have been carried out in the tribal areas, in which 746 people were killed. The study describes 147 of them as civilians. 94 children are said to have been among them. The BIJ criticizes the lack of various drone attacks in the list. According to the organization, z. B. five missions in 2007 not mentioned.

Report to the UN General Assembly

Ben Emmerson , the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Combating Terrorism , referred to the Pakistani Foreign Ministry in his report to the United Nations General Assembly on October 18, 2013 . Accordingly, there have been 330 attacks by drones in Pakistan since 2004. 2,200 people were killed and 600 injured. 400 civilians and 200 non-combatants were among those killed . In his report, Emmerson also criticized the lack of transparency of the drone program and saw a "number of open legal questions" that could only be answered internationally.

Pakistani Ministry of Defense report

On October 30, 2013, the Pakistani Ministry of Defense issued a report that not a single civilian has been killed since 2011. A total of only 67 bystanders have been killed since 2008. The Ministry of Defense put the number of "terrorists" killed in the same period - 2008 to 2013 - at 2160. Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the fight against terrorism, had reported to the UN two weeks earlier -General Assembly was very surprised at the new figures. The Defense Ministry's numbers differed “noticeably” from those that the Pakistani Foreign Ministry reported to him.

Selection of goals and implementation

During the targeted killings of terror suspects in Pakistan, mainly air-to-ground missiles of the type AGM-114 Hellfire are fired from the drones


US Senator Dianne Feinstein claimed in February 2009 that the attacks were launched "from Pakistani airfields". Shortly after the published Times Satellite with recordings of several General Atomics MQ-1 at the Shamsi Airfield in Pakistan. After the attack on the Pakistani base in Salala in November 2011, the Pakistani government asked the US government to withdraw its armed forces from this base, which the US followed. In December 2011 the withdrawal was completed. It is not known from where the drones are currently being launched.

A General Atomics MQ-1 drone fires a Hellfire missile

The attacks are usually carried out by unmanned aerial vehicles of the General Atomics MQ-1 (Predator) types and later also General Atomics MQ-9 (Reaper) using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.


Target person Abu Laith al-Libi , killed in 2008

The targets include members of al-Qaeda , the Taliban , the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and the Haqqani network .

According to a New York Times report published in May 2012, the CIA was pre-selecting targets in Pakistan at the time. Each target in Yemen and Somalia as well as "particularly complex and risky attacks" in Pakistan are said to have been individually approved by President Obama, together with anti-terrorism experts in the situation center in the White House, based on photos and short biographies. The criteria are said to have been relaxed under the Trump administration.

Citizen of the United States

United States citizens have been targeted on several occasions. On May 22, 2013, US Attorney General Eric Holder issued a letter to Congress in which the government first admitted the killing of US citizens by drones. A total of four citizens were killed worldwide. One of them, the preacher Anwar al-Awlaki , was deliberately killed in Yemen, the other three, including al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, were not specifically targeted. According to the Justice Minister, the killings were justified and allowed by the Supreme Court .

Keynote speech Obama

In a speech on May 23, 2013, US President Obama announced that he would transfer responsibility for future drone attacks from the CIA to the Department of Defense . This serves to increase transparency. But he did not want to deviate from the strategy itself. The attacks so far have always been appropriate, effective and legal.

Number of victims among the uninvolved population

The US drone attacks are deeply hated by the population in Pakistan, as they often hit bystanders from the population. There is no official information, the US secret service is keeping the exact number secret. Only the death of a civilian as part of the drone attacks in Pakistan was admitted, in the district of North Waziristan on April 22, 2011. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism counted 3,105 deaths since 2004 (as of March 2013), of which only 47 were “high profile targets “(Wanted terrorists). Among the 3,105 dead were 535 uninvolved civilians, 2,348 "other dead" and 175 children. The term “other killed” is used to summarize the victims who were killed without any hearing or opportunity to defend themselves by testifying.

On April 23, 2015, Obama had to admit that two Western hostages were accidentally killed in a US drone attack in the Afghan-Pakistani border area in January 2015: the Italian Giovanni Lo Porto and the American Warren Weinstein. Both worked as development workers in Pakistan, one held hostage since 2012 and the other since 2011. Lo Porto worked for Deutsche Welthungerhilfe , Weinstein for the US organization USAID . Obama did not specifically explain how the men were killed. The media reported unanimously of a drone attack with a rocket carried out by the US secret service CIA . Obama admitted errors in the operation at the press conference and said he took "full responsibility" for the attacks.


Legal Basis for Killing U.S. Citizens

In early 2013 it became known, the Government of the United States that in the killing of US citizens on a legal opinion of the Department of Justice called the legality of lethal operations against an American citizen who is a leading member of Al Qaeda or an allied group calls whose Content is classified as secret. In June 2012, a 16-page white paper was made available to the Congress , which is a summary.

The report first names three conditions under which a US citizen may be considered a target:

  1. An "informed senior official" must assess him as a terrorist leader who "poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States."
  2. For practical reasons, arrest should not be possible.
  3. The conditions of martial law must be observed; that is, the attack must be necessary, precisely guided, proportionate and humane.

Subsequently, an “imminent danger” is interpreted to mean that the suspect is planning an attack against US citizens or American interests at some point, or is involved in such plans. The CIA leadership is also given a great deal of discretion with regard to the other two conditions.

Involvement of Pakistan

According to research by the New York Times , a secret contract was signed between the US and Pakistani governments in 2004. As a result, in return for the killing of Nek Muhammad , a leader of the uprising in the tribal areas , the CIA was given access to Pakistani airspace in order to use drones to attack its own targets. It was stated that the Pakistani secret service Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had to authorize each target separately and that the air strikes were limited within narrow limits in the tribal areas. In addition, the Pakistani side should take responsibility for the killings or keep silent about them.

On October 24, 2013, the Washington Post released information on classified CIA documents alleging that the Pakistani government had received regular and detailed information about the drone attacks. Maps and photos of targets hit were sent to her. The documents for 65 drone attacks between 2007 and 2011 had been marked for forwarding to Pakistan. There are also various documents that prove that targets were selected by the ISI itself or by the CIA and ISI together.

Sentenced by a Pakistani court

On May 9, 2013, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Supreme Court in Peshawar ordered the Pakistani government to stop the attacks. If necessary, the drones would have to be shot down and relations with the United States severed. In addition, the Foreign Ministry was instructed to seek a UN resolution on the subject. The provincial chief judge, Dost Mohammad Khan , called the attacks a war crime and called for an international tribunal on the issue. In addition, the victims would be entitled to financial compensation.

US lawyer warns of "breach of international law"

At a hearing before a committee of the US House of Representatives in April 2010, the lawyer and international law expert Mary Ellen O'Connell described the drone attacks as a “clear violation of international law”. Because of the lack of a legal basis, the CIA staff responsible for the drone attacks could be arrested in other countries and charged with murder.

Investigative commission

In June 2012, Justice Secretary Eric Holder set up a commission of inquiry to find out how journalists had obtained information about the secret operation. Prosecutors Ronaldmachen and Rod Rosenstein headed the commission. The Republican Party criticized the occupation for making donations to Obama's election campaign.

public perception

Protests in Pakistan

The Pakistani government tolerates the attacks on its territory, but repeatedly protests formally. The majority of the population reject the attacks. For example, on April 12, 2012, the Pakistani parliament called for the attacks to stop. On January 27, 2012, around 100,000 Pakistanis protested the attacks in Karachi . On November 2, 2013, the Pakistani government summoned US Ambassador Richard Olson after a drone attack on Hakimullah Mehsud .

Criticism in the United States

Conservative US commentators such as David Ignatius sometimes warn that not everything that may be legal in the context of self-defense is also advisable (“what is legal isn't always wise”) and refers to a UN report, according to which 40 countries over Drones are available and countries such as Israel, Russia, Turkey, China and Iran are striving to arm their drones - "dozens of other nations that may soon use them to target their own bad guys ." The expansion of drone missions beyond Pakistan to countries like Ignatius warns that Yemen and Somalia could lead to a sky full of drones and thus to a world of “lawlessness and chaos”.

Criticism in the Federal Republic of Germany

The US military base Ramstein in the Palatinate plays a central role in the drone war in Pakistan. The federal government ignored evidence of the drone control in Ramstein and repeatedly asserted that it had known nothing. However, documents prove that the Federal Ministry of Defense was informed of the events and that the Federal Intelligence Service also received information about Ramstein. Since it is allegedly an international crime or a criminal offense of considerable political importance, the opposition asked the Attorney General to conduct legal investigations. The judiciary should not look the other way if international law and German criminal law are broken and disregarded from within Germany. However, there was no reaction from Karlsruhe (as of April 2015).


The 2014 US feature film Good Kill - Death from the Air deals with the drone war from the perspective of Reaper pilot teams at Creech Air Force Base .


See: List of drone strikes in Pakistan

Web links

  • Bureau Of Investigative Journalism "(BIJ): " Interactive graphics ". In: Bureau Of Investigative Journalism" (BIJ). 2013, accessed April 23, 2015 .
  • Horst Bacia: And the pilots are based in Langley. Drone attacks. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . Retrieved October 12, 2010, retrieved August 12, 2011 (Overview of Predator Drones Usage since First Test): “[Baitullah Mehsud's] killing made it clear that Pakistan is not, despite official protests, against American drone air strikes on its territory only tolerates, but supported by the exchange of intelligence information. "
  • Covert Drone War - the Data. In: Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Retrieved on August 12, 2011 (English, data collection, including an interactive map, a searchable database and various statistics about the attacks).
  • Living Under Drones. In: Stanford International Human Rights & Conflict Resolution Clinic. Retrieved September 26, 2012 (study on the effects of drone attacks on the civilian population).
  • Markus Holzinger: Risk Transfer Wars: On the Military, Political and Legal Implications of New Weapon Technologies , in: Processes. Journal for civil rights and social policy, issue 1/2011. Pp. 107-118.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Sven Hansen: Neither clean nor precise. In: the daily newspaper . August 12, 2011, accessed August 12, 2011 .
  2. a b Obama confirms US drones in Pakistan for the first time. In: ORF . January 31, 2012, accessed January 31, 2012 .
  3. USA: Illegal drone war? In: Der Spiegel . No. 13 , 2010, p. 89 ( online ).
  4. War at the click of a mouse: international lawyers castigate US drone attacks . Spiegel Online . April 29, 2010. Archived from the original on April 25, 2011. Retrieved on April 25, 2011.
  5. a b War at the click of a mouse: international lawyers castigate US drone attacks . Spiegel Online . April 29, 2010. Archived from the original on April 25, 2011. Retrieved on April 25, 2011.
  6. a b c US drones are said to have killed hundreds of civilians. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . August 12, 2011, accessed August 12, 2011 .
  7. a b Terror against civilians
  8. ^ Terror for the people in Pakistan
  9. a b Population suffers from terror
  10. ^ State secret report on the number of civilian drone victims
  11. ^ Get the Data: The Pakistan government's secret document
  12. 400 civilians killed in drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004. In: Der Standard . October 19, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2013 .
  13. Jump up Numbers in Islamabad
  14. Ahmed Rashid : On the Abyss . Pakistan, Afghanistan and the West. 1st edition. Weltkiosk, New York, London 2012, ISBN 978-3-942377-06-5 , pp. 184 f . (English: Pakistan on the Brinken . Translated by Henning Hoff).
  15. Die Zeit: Helicopter attack: Pakistan meets USA with "deep feeling of anger" (accessed November 27, 2011)
  16. orf.at: USA evacuates military base in southwest Pakistan (accessed December 11, 2011)
  17. Obama personally selects targets for attacks. In: Frankfurter Rundschau . May 29, 2012. Retrieved June 20, 2012 .
  18. https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-ramped-up-drone-strikes-in-americas-shadow-wars
  19. a b c d Rubber License to Kill
  20. Government admitted killing US citizens with drones
  21. USA: Obama regulates drone attacks
  22. ^ Analysis of secret documents - US journalists strongly criticize the drone war in Pakistan , SZ, April 12, 2013
  23. USA accidentally killed two western hostages in Pakistan , SZ, April 23, 2015
  24. ^ A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood
  25. CIA exposes Pakistan's hypocrisy. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . October 24, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2013 .
  26. Court wants to stop US drone attacks
  27. ↑ A court in Pakistan wants to stop drones
  28. ^ Frank Herrmann: Washington disputes the drone war. In: The Standard . June 14, 2012, Retrieved June 18, 2012 .
  29. Parliament wants to loosen the ISAF's supply blockade
  30. ^ Spiegel Online : Drone strike against Taliban leaders: Pakistan orders US ambassador , accessed on November 2, 2013
  31. The price of becoming addicted to drones . Washington Post, September 22, 2011
  32. Der Krieg via Ramstein , Der Spiegel , April 17, 2015
  33. Jeremy Scahill : Germany is the Tell-Tale Heart of America's Drone War , The Intercept , April 17, 2015