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New Light on the Accuracy of the CIA’s Predator Drone Campaign in Pakistan

By Matthew Fricker, Avery Plaw and Brian Glyn Williams

Widely-cited reports of the inaccuracy and disproportionality of civilian to militant deaths in the CIA’s ongoing Predator drone campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan are grossly misleading. The most detailed database compiled to date, assembled by the authors of this article, indicates (among other important findings) that the strikes have not only been impressively accurate, but have achieved and maintained a greater proportionality than either ground operations in the area or targeting campaigns elsewhere. [1]

This finding is striking because highly critical reports over the last year, emanating in particular from the Pakistani press, have impugned both the accuracy of the CIA’s drone strikes in the tribal areas of that country and the proportionality of the civilian collateral damage they cause. In April 2009, for example, the Pakistani daily The News published an article by terrorism expert Amir Mir reporting Predator strikes had killed only 14 high value al-Qaeda targets but were responsible for 687 civilian fatalities – a 1:49 ratio of terrorist to civilians (The News [Islamabad], April 10, 2009; see also Terrorism Monitor, February 19).  To put it another way, Mir’s report suggested that 98.14% of fatalities associated with the Predator strikes were civilians. On February 1 of this year, Mir added that Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda