Skip to main content

US drone strikes killed more than 200 people to reach 35 targets in Afghanistan

US drone strikes killed more than 200 people to reach 35 targets in Afghanistan

Share this story

The US government has been wildly understating the collateral casualties from its drone program, according to an extensive eight-part series report in The Intercept. Using leaked documents on Operation Haymaker, one report takes an unprecedented look at drone strikes in Afghanistan between January 2012 and February 2013, during which more than 200 people were killed by US drones. Of those people, only 35 were approved targets, the rest being either collateral damage or mistakes resulting from faulty intelligence.

That's particularly troubling because the president approves targets rather than individual strikes, leaving additional decision-making in the hands of CENTCOM, JSOC, and local Yemeni intelligence. Military officials might accept some level of collateral damage, assuming anyone near the target is likely to be involved in terrorism, but those additional targets (which make up the bulk of the Operation Haymaker's victims) aren't subject to conventional oversight. When collateral targets cannot be identified, they're routinely marked as "Enemies Killed In Action," forestalling any fallout from the strike.

The documents come from an unnamed whistleblower within the intelligence community, who The Intercept says was moved to publish them out of concerns over the morality of the drone program at large. "This outrageous explosion of watchlisting — of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield," the source told The Intercept, "it was, from the very first instance, wrong."