More evidence has emerged, which contradicts the U.S. government’s claim that its drone program is a precise mode of warfare causing few civilian casualties.
The Stanford Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic and the NYU Global Justice Clinic’s report, Living Under Drones, indicts the U.S. drone program in North Waziristan, Pakistan by drawing on narratives from those constantly living under the threat of drone attacks.
In addition to highlighting fears felt by those living under the threat of drone strikes, the report also exposes the effects of targeted killings on tribal society in North Waziristan.
One particularly disturbing consequence is the erosion of tribal customs among the tribes native to the region. The report reveals that people have become wary of congregating in public spaces for fear of being mistaken for militants. Because of this fear, some tribes people have avoided traditional dispute resolution mechanisms.
Additionally, drone attacks destabilize vital family and tribal structures. An example of this is the March 17th drone strike in the town of Datta Khel, North Waziristan. The strike obliterated a jirga – a forum convened by tribal elders and a principle means of dispute resolution in Pashtun society. Nearly all those killed were heads of large households. This included the leader of the jirga, a government-appointed counselor for all of North Waziristan, and a political liaison between the Pakistani government and military and the region’s tribal groups.
As such, the drone attacks are aggravating erosions to tribal society created by the local insurgency in Pakistan’s northwest region; the traditional Malik system is gradually being overturned by violence, with militant assassinations of many elders, or Maliks. Living Under Drones suggests that the United States’ strategy to end the insurgency, via drones, may only intensify the dynamics the insurgencies created and possibly thrive in.
On its website, Living Under Drones also includes victim narratives, a timeline of attacks, a legal analysis, and a set of strategic considerations on the effectiveness of drone strikes as a policy. The full text of the report can be accessed here.