Price of War

One-Third of Drone Deaths Are Civilians

Drones may be integral to Vice President Joe Biden's preferred strategy in Pakistan, but they may not be as safe as previously thought. A new report from the New America Foundation estimates that some 31 to 33 percent of all casualties from the CIA's Taliban-targeting drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas are civilians. The paper, authored by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedmann, reports that somewhere between 750 and 1,000 have been killed by the strikes, including between 250 and 320 noncombatants and only 20 "leaders of al Qaeda, the Taliban and allied groups"; those figures were derived by compiling the available data from a variety of news sources, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and major English-language papers in Pakistan. Though the report claims that some 66 to 68 percent of casualties were "militants," Spencer Ackerman, writing at the Washington Independent, points out that defining a "militant" can be difficult: "There's a spectrum here, running from insurgent to civilian effectively held hostage." Meanwhile Jane Mayer, whose report on civilian deaths in Pakistan in the New Yorker dropped today, points out that "the embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion."