This Is How Many Civilians Have Died In Drone Strikes

Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks following a National Security Council meeting on June 14, 2016
In a report released on Friday, the Obama administration revealed that between 64 and 116 civilians have been killed in drone strikes in three foreign countries since 2009.

The estimated death tally includes those killed in 473 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia over the past seven years. The report, from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, excludes deaths from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, areas which are referred to as "areas of active hostilities." The report also counts between 2,372 and 2,581 "combatant" deaths from the attacks.

Drone warfare has been a point of heavy contention and a target for critics of the Obama administration. Opponents of the military use of drones have said that the uncertainty of targets leaves citizens vulnerable and that authorities cannot be positive that those killed are in fact terrorists. Watchdog groups such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimate that several hundred to possibly-more-than 1,000 civilians have been killed in strikes in those countries since 2004. They estimate that up to 227 of the dead were children.

The administration has been criticized for allegedly changing the definition of "civilian" over the years. A 2012 New York Times report found that the government effectively counted all military-age males in the target area as "combatants." The new report from the Obama administration disputes that claim. "The U.S. government may have reliable information that certain individuals are combatants, but are being counted as non-combatants by non-governmental organizations," it reads.

The president also announced an executive order to make protecting civilians a more central part of American military operations in the area. "All armed conflict invites tragedy. But by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life," he was quoted as saying in a press statement revealing the order.

In a press conference prior to the report's release, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the release of the information was in the interest of transparency. “It’s something that the president believes builds a lot of credibility into our national security efforts, but also adds credibility to our efforts to go after terrorists,” he said.
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