Unmanned aviation systems, popularly known as drones, are playing an increased role in armed conflicts. They are used both for collecting intelligence and for deploying lethal force. In 2007 there were 74 U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan. That year, there were five strikes in Pakistan. By 2012, the American military was executing an average of 33 drone strikes per month in Afghanistan, and the total number in Pakistan has now surpassed 330. Recently the United States has proposed further expanding its deployment of drones, developing plans to set up additional Predator drone bases in Africa that would allow these drones to cover much of the Saharan region.
Drones have been employed in multiple theaters of the counterterrorism campaign, including Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Libya. They are now included in the arsenal of many nations including Israel, China, and Iran. They have even been operated by a non-state actor, Hezbollah, which has ﬂown at least two drones over Israel. Several nations are currently developing drones that will be able to carry out highly-specialized missions, for instance tiny drones able to enter constricted areas through narrow passages. If the American military continues to move away from deploying conventional forces on the ground (in Iraq and Afghanistan) to a “light footprint” strategy of “offshore balancing” (as employed in Libya), drones are likely to play an even more important role in future armed conﬂicts. Like other new armaments (e.g., long-range cruise missiles and high-altitude carpet bombing) the growing use of drones has triggered a considerable debate over the moral and legal grounds on which they are used. This debate is next reviewed.
Read the rest at ICPS.