The Obama administration has killed from 64 to 116 civilians, as well as between 2,372 and 2,581 combatants in drone and other lethal airstrikes targeting terrorists outside principal war zones like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, according to a much-anticipated report from the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), released Friday.
DNI reports that the fatalities stem from 473 CIA and military counterterrorism strikes conducted under President Barack Obama’s watch (between January 20, 2009, and the end of 2015) against terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities such as Pakistan and Libya.
It marked the first time the Obama administration detailed the number of fighters and civilians killed under the President’s secretive counterterrorism campaign.
Typically, the airstrikes are carried via drones. However, strikes by manned warplanes and missiles were also part of the count.
DNI only released aggregate figures, excluding when or where the attacks occurred.
“The administration shielded those claims from meaningful public scrutiny, even as it sought to bolster its own assertions about the accuracy and effectiveness of the operations,” notes The Washington Post (WaPo).
“Independent groups, whose own tracking of civilian deaths have produced far higher numbers, said they appreciated the administration’s effort,” it adds. “But they said it fell far short of President Obama’s repeated promises of greater transparency about his administration’s extraordinary reliance on armed drones in overseas counterterrorist operations.”
Also on Friday, President Obama issued an executive order detailing “best practices and procedures” that should be taken to diminish the number of civilian casualties in the United States’ ongoing war on terror.
Although the Obama administration failed to disclose the name of the countries where the strikes took place, they include Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, points out WaPo.
“The figures do not include deaths in ground operations, such as the one that killed Osama bin Laden and four others in Pakistan in 2011, or operations in the administration-designated war zones of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria,” it adds.
Earlier this month, unnamed current and former U.S. officials told the Post that the number of CIA drone strikes have plummeted to a low single digit so far in 2016, President Barack Obama’s last full year in office.
“The agency has carried out at most seven strikes in 2016, putting the spy service on course to take fewer shots from remotely piloted aircraft than in any year since 2007, two years before President Obama took office and made the agency’s drone program a pillar of his counterterrorism approach,” the report states.