1 Kajibei

Essay Drones Attack Isis

A note on our data and methodology

US drones and jets have been bombing Afghanistan since late 2001 and the airstrikes look set to continue into the Trump administration.

For most of the past 15 years, US aircraft operated alongside allied air forces. However this changed on January 1 2015. From that point the US became the only air force known to be flying fast jets or armed drones in Afghanistan. A handful of European allies have kept some transport helicopters in the country to support the Nato Resolute Support Mission.

Besides the US, the Afghan Air Force (AAF) is the only other force carrying out air strikes in Afghanistan. As of June 1 2016 the AAF operated at least 41 strike-capable aircraft. This number is increasing as more helicopters and fixed-wing ground attack aircraft are delivered to the AAF and are sent to the frontline.

The number of AAF strikes is not publicly known however the UN has reported an increasing number of civilian casualties from the attacks. The UN counted 126 civilian casualties in 2015 – 46 were killed and 80 injured. In the UN’s six-month report in 2016 the number of civilian casualties had doubled compared with the same period the year before, with with 161 casualties in January to June – 57 killed and 104 injured.

Those incidents that are reported in Afghan and international media are recorded in this timeline, for reference, though not included in the running tallies in the tables below.

Find our 2015 data here.

Find our 2017 data here.

On January 1 2015 the international commitment in Afghanistan took on a new form. The US and Nato started their non-combat “Train, Advise, Assist” mission supporting the Afghan police and army. Alongside this, the US began a counter-terrorism mission hunting al Qaeda and its allies.

The events detailed below occurred in 2016. They have been reported by US, Afghan and Pakistani civil, military and intelligence officials, through credible media, academic and other sources, including the Bureau’s own field researchers and published investigations.

This is not an exhaustive list. The US Air Force publishes monthly summaries of its operations over Afghanistan, including how many strike missions it has flown and how many bombs and missiles have been released. This information is published one month late but still indicates a greater number of strikes than the Bureau’s tally. The US figures are summarised in the table below and can be downloaded from the US Air Force website.

For more on our methodology, see the notes page in our database of strikes accessible here. A more detailed analysis of the US Air Force’s figures are also maintained in this sheet.

The Bureau uses a C suffix on the six digit alphanumeric strike code when there are unresolved questions over the attribution of a strike, or its sourcing. They are not included in our casualty estimates.

In order to give some context to the strikes, brief summaries of events in Afghanistan and internationally have been included in the timeline. These might include noteworthy military and political events in Afghanistan or political developments in Washington or Islamabad, for example. Some of these summaries include a body count – they are not included in the Bureau’s casualty estimates and they do not have a six figure alphanumeric code.

This research is part of the Bureau’s covert drone war project. The Bureau has collected extensive data on US drone strikes and air strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

 

Reported US strikes, Afghanistan 2016
Strikes recorded
by the Bureau
Total reported strikes:1071
Total reported killed:1,389-1,597
Civilians reported killed:65-105
Children reported killed:3-7
Total reported injured:196-243

 

The Air Force publishes its data online in an Air Power Summary – the monthly figures are posted in the second week of the following month. For example, data for January were posted in the second week of February. Therefore, the figures in the table above and below are only ever accurate up to the end of the previous month.

US Air Force reported air operations, Afghanistan 2016
Total Close Air Support (CAS) sorties
with at least one weapon release
615
Total CAS sorties5,162
Total weapons released1,337

 

Monitoring the US drone and air strikes in Afghanistan: A new project for the Bureau

The current international missions in Afghanistan sprang into life on January 1 2015, with clear roots in the international military operations that came before.

The Nato-led operation, Resolute Support Mission (RSM), is a non-combat mission in the country to train, assist and advise the Afghan police and army – a role it inherited from Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf). As of the most recent public tally, in October 2016, there were 39 countries contributing soldiers to RSM, ranging from more than 860 Georgian troops to one from Luxembourg.

The US mission, Operation Freedom Sentinel (OFS) in part fulfils the same functions as RSM. Most are part of RSM’s training mission but a significant counter-terrorism element remains. This is largely a continuation of the 14 year long Operation Enduring Freedom mission, the banner US and allied forces first entered Afghanistan under back in October 2001 to hunt down al Qaeda.

After the US and its allies scattered the Taliban and al Qaeda in 2001, the UN sent in a peacekeeping force to secure the capital. This assistance force, Isaf, was meant to last six months to allow the government to find its feet and hold elections. In 2003 the UN decided to hand over control of Isaf to Nato. As the years went by, it became less about peacekeeping and more about fighting the Afghan Taliban insurgency.

Similarly, Operation Enduring Freedom changed from its initial special operations-focused hunt for terrorists. It too became increasingly focused on countering the Taliban insurgency.

 

The US has considerable firepower at its disposal to support this mission. The Air Force operates F-16 strike, aircraft stationed at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, as well as Predator and Reaper drones based at Kandahar and Jalalabad. The US Army still has Apache attack helicopters in the country. The CIA still operates drones from Afghanistan and the US Air Force continues to fly AC-130 gunships, such as the aircraft that carried out the catastrophic October 3 2015 strike in Kunduz that hit a charity-run hospital.

The Bureau’s data by month for 2016


January 2016

AFG136
January 2 2016
♦ 5 reported killed
♦ 2 reported injured

A US drone strike killed at least five former Pakistan Taliban (TTP) fighters in Kunar province. One of the dead, Abu Bakr, was thought to be the former TTP commander in Bajaur tribal agency in Pakistan. All five men had reportedly left the TTP and pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State, also known as Isis.

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Shaltan Darra area, Shegal district, Kunar province
References: Khaama Press, The News International

January 5 2016
A US Army Special Forces soldier was killed and others were injured during an “hours-long gun battle” in Helmand that the Pentagon said was a combat “situation”.

One soldier died of his wounds after helicopters sent to evacuate the casualties got into trouble. News reports said one hit a wall and damaged its rotor while the other did not land after taking fire. The gun battle went on for at least three hours after the casualties were reported by the Pentagon press office.

The troops were eventually airlifted out of the fight with one report saying a battlefield medic tended to the injured Green Beret for 12 hours while under fire. The casualty “was alert and orientated” while being evacuated, a source told the Sofrep – a respected news website run by former special operations soldiers.

US Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-Montana) wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defence asking for a briefing on this incident after reports the Green Beret team were denied air support or backup.

The US Special Forces team had been deployed to Marjah to help Afghan troops soldiers trying to retake districts in the southern province. They were there in a “support backup” role, the Pentagon said. A spokesman insisted the Special Forces team were not in a combat role, saying: “This is a combat situation, but they’re not in the lead.”

In the days after the attack it was reported that a Quick Reaction Force was not dispatched to the firefight when the elite soldiers were pinned down, and air support from an AC-130 gunship was waived off by senior commanders.

The Pentagon released the name of the dead soldier on January 8. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock was part of a team from 19 Special Forces Group. A spokesman said the soldiers had come under fire while “conducting a train, advise and assist mission with their Afghan special operations counterparts”. They were the first US casualties of 2016.

The soldiers were attacked with Afghan forces in the district of Marja in the southern Helmand province – the scene of intense fighting as the Afghan army and police struggled to resist the Taliban. The insurgents’ efforts to seize Helmand intensified in 2015 and continued into 2016. Helmand plays a central role in the Afghan opium trade.

Location: Marjah district, Helmand province
References: The Guardian, Reuters, CNN, US Forces – Afghanistan, The Hill, Sofrep, Sofrep, Sofrep


US F-16 jets filmed on January 6 at Bagram Air Base during operations supporting US and Afghan forces in Helmand province.

AFG137
January 6 2016
♦ Unknown killed

A dozen US strikes hit Helmand as fierce fighting between the Taliban and US and Afghan forces continued in the southern province.

A US spokesman said: “US forces have conducted 12 air strikes in support of operations in and around Marjah.” There were no reported casualties.

US “warplanes” had been flying air support sorties over the US forces in Helmand the day before this attack. It is not clear if this strike and those missions were carried out by drones or jets. US F-16s were known to be flying some support operations from Bagram airfield.

The US spokesman said the US was still operating in Marjah and Sangin districts after a US soldier was killed by Taliban gunfire, and two others were injured.

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Majah district, Helmand province
References: Reuters

Afghan Air Force strikes
January 8
2016
♦ 23 reported killed

The Afghan Air Force said it had killed 23 fighters from the Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate.

Type of attack: AAF strikes
Location: Achin and Kot disticts, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press

AFG138
January 8 2016
♦ 17-20 reported killed
♦ Possible civilian deaths
♦ 2 civilians reported injured

A US drone strike killed 17 fighters from the so-called Islamic State, according to the provincial governor’s spokesman, provincial police chief’s spokesman, and local residents.

The strike was confirmed by US Forces – Afghanistan public affairs director, Colonel Michael Lawhorn.

He told the Bureau: “US forces conducted a counter-terrorism strike yesterday. It is [US Forces – Afghanistan] policy not to discuss the details of counter-terrorism operations.”

The strike hit just as seven men were beheaded by the Islamic State fighters, in front of local villagers, according to Ataullah Khogyani the provincial governor’s spokesman. The execution and strike took place in the afternoon after Friday prayers before a mosque. The executed men included six Taliban fighters and one Afghan National Army soldier, the local residents said.

A resident in the area, Abdul Qayyum, told Pajhwok a large number of villagers had gathered to watch the execution. He also said there were civilian casualties though did not give a precise figure or details.

Both the Afghan security forces and Afghan Taliban have been fighting the self-proclaimed Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State group.

Fighters from various armed Afghan and Pakistani armed groups declared themselves part of Isis in 2015 and gained a foothold in southern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. It is not clear exactly how closely associated these fighters are with the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Maktab village, Pekha area, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Voice of America, Khaama Press, Pajhwok, TOLO News, Anadolu Agency, Reuters, US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG139
January 8 2016
♦ Unknown killed

A US strike was conducted “to eliminate threats to the force,” the spokesman for US Forces – Afghanistan, Colonel Michael Lawhorn, told the Bureau.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Kharkhez district, Kandahar province
References: US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG140
January 8 2016
♦ Unknown killed

A US strike was conducted “to eliminate threats to the force,” Colonel Michael Lawhorn, director of public affairs for US Forces – Afghanistan, told the Bureau. The US mission in Afghanistan acknowledges its air attacks in Afghanistan but refuse to “get into our targeting processes and methods nor discuss what may or may not have been targeted in the past” for “operational security reasons”.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Bermal district, Paktika province
References: US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG141
January 9 2016
♦ 20 reported killed
♦ “Several” injured

A second consecutive US strike on Achin district in Nangarhar left 20 people dead – all reported to be members of the Islamic State group.

The US command in Kabul confirmed it was a US strike but would not comment on targeting processes and methods, “for operational security reasons” according to chief spokesman Colonel Michael Lawhorn.

“Twenty [Isis] affiliates have died in drone strikes by Nato in Achin district,” said Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, Nangarhar police spokesman. Several houses being used by the terrorists were destroyed, various media outlets reported.

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Geo TV, Daily Times, Pakistan Today, DPA, Express Tribune, Express Tribune, Dawn, US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG141C
January 9 2016
♦ 15 reported killed
♦ 3 reported injured, including 1 woman

An airstrike killed 15 alleged Islamic State fighters however the reporting did not specify if it was a US or Afghan strike.

Type of attack: Afghan or US air strike
Location: Janjal Gondai area, Kot district, Nangarhar province
References: Afghan Islamic Press

AFG142
January 9 2016
♦ 10 reported killed
♦ 1 child reported killed

Ten terrorists were reported killed in a US drone strike in Kunar province. The adolescent son of a former senior figure in the TTP was said to be among the dead.

Early reports said three or four Pakistani fighters were killed in the attack however these casualty estimates were subsequently increased to 10.

Colonel Michael Lawhorn, director of communications for US Forces – Afghanistan, told the Bureau the US carried out the strike out “to eliminate threats to the force”. When asked about reports a child died in the attack, Col Lawhorn said: “For operational security reasons, we will not get into our targeting processes and methods nor discuss what may or may not have been targeted in the past.”

The dead were said to be Pakistanis and three were reported to be from Pashat Salarzai area in Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal agency. Among those three were a man named Zishan, Haqyar and Sajid Mohammed (aka Attique or Atiqullah), 13 or 14, son of Maulvi Faqir Mohammad a former deputy leader of the TTP who served under the command of both Baitullah and Hakimullah Mehsud.

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Shegal district, Kunar province
References: Pajhwok, Daily Pakistan, Express Tribune, Khaama Press, DPA, Express Tribune, Express Tribune, Dawn, US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG142C
January 10 2016 
♦ 8-11 reported killed

At least eight more alleged Isis fighters were reported killed in an air strike however it was not clear whether it was a US or Afghan attack.

Type of attack: Afghan or US strike
Location: Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Express Tribune, Express Tribune, BNA

AFG143
January 10 2016
♦ Unknown killed

The first of two US strikes in Bermal district on this day, conducted “to eliminate threats to the force” according to Colonel Michael Lawhorn, US Forces – Afghanistan director of public affairs.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Bermal district, Paktika province
References: US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG144
January 10 2016
♦ Unknown killed

The second US strikes in Bermal district on this day, also conducted “to eliminate threats to the force” according to Colonel Michael Lawhorn, US Forces – Afghanistan director of public affairs.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Bermal district, Paktika province
References: US Forces – Afghanistan via email

Afghan Air Force Strike
January 11 2016
♦ 22 reported killed

The Afghan Air Force said it killed 18 fighters from the Islamic State group in Achin district of Nangarhar province. The AAF also killed four Taliban fighters in Gerishk district of Helmand province in the south of the country.

Type of strike: AAF strike
Location: Achin district, Nangarhar province and Gerishk district, Helmand province
References: Khaama Press

Afghan Air Force Strike
January 13 2016
♦ 10 reported killed

An Afghan Air Force helicopter targeted a group of insurgents, killing 10 according to the provincial police chief Fazil Ahmad Shirzad. The attack took place in the evening, Shirzad added.

Type of strike: AAF Air Strikes
Location: Kot district, Nangarhar province
References: TOLO News

January 14 2016
The US State Department added the so-called Islamic State group’s off-shoot in Afghanistan and Pakistan to its list of foreign terrorist organisations. State said, in a press release:

[Islamic State – Khorasan] announced its formation on January 10, 2015. The group is based in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region and is composed primarily of former members of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban. The senior leadership of [Islamic State – Khorasan] has pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of [Isis]. This pledge was accepted in late January 2015 and since then [Islamic State – Khorasan] has carried out suicide bombings, small arms attacks and kidnappings in eastern Afghanistan against civilians and Afghan National Security and Defense Forces, and claimed responsibility for May 2015 attacks on civilians in Karachi, Pakistan.

Location: Washington DC
Reference: US State Department

AFG145
January 14 2016
♦ 12 reported killed

A US strike killed 12 people in the first attack on the so-called Islamic State group’s Afghanistan offshoot – Islamic State – Khorasan (IS-K) – since the US government declared the group was a foreign terrorist organisation.

Afghan officials initially claimed the attack killed Hafiz Saeed Khan, the leader of IS-K. However these assertions proved false and were withdrawn. Achin District governor said on January 15: “The information we received yesterday was not accurate. After receiving accurate information, we realized he had not been killed.”

Saeed Khan was a Pakistan Taliban fighter who split from the TTP in 2014 to join with IS-K. The attack hit at 4pm local time, Khogyani said. He had been falsely reported killed before, in July 2015.

The strike also killedAjnabi, according to Achin district governor Ghalib Mujahid. Ajnabi was the son of Manghal Bagh the leader of Lashkar e Islam, a Pakistani terrorist group.

While the US confirmed it had carried out a strike in the district, they would not confirm it had targeted or killed Saeed Khan. A US spokesman told Voice of America: “US confirmed a strike in Achin District, Nangarhar province January 14 against a threat to the force. At this time we cannot confirm the claim that Hafiz Saeed (Khan) was involved in this strike.” The US made no mention of killing Ajnabi.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Abdulkhelo area, Bandar locality, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Voice of America, Voice of America, Express Tribune, Khaama Press, TOLO News, Voice of America

AFG146
January 14 2016
♦ 36 reported killed

Several “Nato airstrikes” killed 36 alleged Isis fighters in the Haska Mena district of Nangarhar province.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Haron Baba, Mano and Sabai areas, Haska Mena district, Nangarhar province
References: Raha Press/Pajhwok

AFG147
January 16 2016
♦ 17 reported killed

At least 17 alleged Isis fighters were killed in eight drone strikes over the afternoon of January 16, the Afghan army said. The strikes hit in Deh Bala district of Nangarhar.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Deh Bala district, Nangarhar province
References: TOLO News, Khaama Press

AFG148
January 16 2016
♦ 22 reported killed

Another US airstrike in the Haska Mena district of Nangarhar province left 22 alleged Isis fighters dead, Pajhwok reported.

Attaullah Khogyani, the provincial governor’s spokesman, said the strike hit in the Shabi Tangi area on the evening of January 16.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Shabi Tangi, Haska Mena district, Nangarhar province
References: Pajhwok

AFG149
January 19 2016
♦ 5 reported killed

Five alleged Isis fighters were killed by US drones in Nangarhar province. A commander, Sajid Aarabzai (aka Qari Sajjaad) was said to be among the dead.

Early reports said three had been killed however a statement from the Ministry of Interior put the total at five, as did the spokesman for the provincial police chief. The strike killed the men as they drove in a vehicle, Nangarhar governor’s spokesman said.

This was at least the seventeenth US strike in 2016 that was said to have killed members of the Afghanistan faction of Isis. The attack hit between 2pm and 2pm local time (9.30am-10.30am GMT), approximately 14 hours before the Wall Street Journal revealed the White House had given the Pentagon legal authority to target Isis in Afghanistan.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Deh Sarak area, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Pajhwok, Khaama Press, Afghan Ministry of Interior

AFG150
January 22 2016

♦ 3 reported killed

The first US drone strike reported in Zabul since January 1 2015 killed three insurgents, according to Mullah Zarif the administrative head of Khawajakhel town. The attack hit late in the day.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Khawajakhel, Arghandab district, Zabul province
References: Pajhwok

AFG151
January 22 2016
♦ 2 reported killed

A US attack killed two alleged members of the Islamic State’s Khorasan franchise (IS-K), according to Attaullah Khogyani, the provincial governor’s spokesman.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Nangarhar province
References: Pajhwok

AFG152
January 22 2016
♦ 3 reported killed

Three alleged IS-K fighters were killed in a US strike in Achin district, according to Attaullah Khogyani, the provincial governor’s spokesman.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Abdulkhel area, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Pajhwok, TOLO News, Khaama Press

AFG153
January 22 2016
♦ 10 reported killed

Ten IS-K fighters were reported killed in a US drone attack, including a commander from the group, Qari Hafizullah.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Gorgorai area, Haska Mena district, Nangarhar province
References: Pajhwok, TOLO News, Khaama Press

AFG154
January 23 2016
♦ 3 reported killed

Three more alleged IS-K fighters were reported killed by US drones. The provincial governor’s spokesman said Qari Wahab, an IS-K commander, was killed in either this attack or another strike the day before (AFG153).

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Bandar area, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Pajhwok, TOLO News, Khaama Press

AFG155
January 23 2016
♦ 6 reported killed

The Afghan Ministry of Defence reported: “A coalition Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) targeted militants of [IS-K] in Nargusi village of Achin District yesterday. As a result, Maiwand, a commander of [IS-K] and five of his men were killed.”

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Nargusi village, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press

AFG156
January 24 2016
♦ 13 reported killed

Thirteen IS-K fighters were reported killed in a US drone strike in the Deh Bala district.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Gurguri area, Deh Bala district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press

AFG157
January 24 2016
♦ 4 reported killed

A further four IS-K fighters were reported killed in the Achin district of Nangarhar.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Bandar Khwar village, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press

AFG158
January 25 2016
♦ 5 reported killed

US drones killed five Taliban fighters in a strike in Achin district including a commander, Qari Hidayatullah.

The strike hit “late” on January 25 – it was the seventh consecutive strike reported in Nangarhar recorded by the Bureau

There were speculative reports in the Pakistani media that the strike killed Mullah Fazlullah, the leader of the Pakistan Taliban. The reports appeared to have been based on a news report from December 2014. A Pakistani security official told Dawn: “We are trying to verify these reports… The last we heard about him was that he was in Kunar and not in Nangarhar.”

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Pajhwok, Dawn


February 2016

AFG159
February 1 2016
♦ 21-29 reported killed

Two or four US strikes killed at least 21 people in a direct attack on an Islamic State’s propaganda outlet, US and Afghan officials said.

The attacks leveled a radio station, called Voice of the Caliphate, an “Internet control centre”, and an makeshift court in Achin district of Nangarhar, according to several Afghan officials.

Eight of the dead were broadcasting and three were working in the Internet facility.

The Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria is renowned for its sophisticated and bloodthirsty propaganda videos distributed online. The group’s Afghan offshoot, IS-K, had started transmitting an hour of propaganda in Pashto on the FM network last year. It added a Dari language service to its transmissions and extended broadcasts to 90 minutes. The attack hit while the radio was broadcasting a warning to local residents to support the Islamic Sate group or be killed.

Radio is a powerful medium in Afghanistan, a country with low television and Internet coverage.

Details of what happened are vague or conflicted. Afghan national news agency Pajhwok reported a timeline of events however. The first strike hit the radio station, the second hit a hideout. It is not clear what the third strike hit and the fourth hit the Internet facility though it is not clear what that was meant to be. The attacks hit around 7pm local time (2.30pm GMT).

Some reports said the attack was carried out by the Afghan Air Force. However the AAF still lacked the ability for precision strikes and a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan said the US carried out two counter-terrorism strikes in Achin on the night of February 1. He would not elaborate citing operational security.

Type of attack: US drone or air strikes
Location: Momand area, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Associated Press, Voice of America, Voice of America, TOLO News, Pajhwok, Khaama Press, RFE/RL, Reuters, BBC, Washington Post, New York Times

AFG160
February 1 2016
♦ 19 reported killed

A US strike killed 18 members of the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) group on the Afghan side of the border from Waziristan, according to Afghan and Pakistani officials.

There were suggestions a British-born engineer was among the dead however the identities of the dead were not known. They were described as being part of part of a TTP faction loyal to Sayed Khan Sajna.

Fourteen of the men were from the Mehsud tribe and the remaining four were Ahmadzai Waziri tribesmen. The Mehsuds and Waziris are Pashtun tribes that live on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, a boundary drawn by the British Empire in the late 19th century.

The strike killed the men as they crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan, Pakitka provincial governor’s spokesman said. The bodies were taken back to various locations just over the border in Pakistan.

It was not clear where the strike hit. Some sources said it hit in the Bermal district of Paktika, some in Gomal district. These two districts are adjacent (see right for map of Paktika’s districts) and form part of Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). Gomal abuts the tribal area of South Waziristan, Bermal the area of North Waziristan and the Shawal area, home to various Pakistani terrorist groups.

Type of attack: US drone or air strikes
Location: Bermal or Gomal district, Paktika province
References: Dawn, Khaama Press, Express Tribune, Pajhwok, Dawn, Express Tribune

AFG161
February 2 2016
♦ 3-4 reported killed

Three or four alleged Islamic State – Khorasan fighters were killed in an evening strike in Nangarhar province.

US Forces – Afghanistan spokesman Colonel Michael Lawhorn told the Bureau: “US forces conducted an air strike on February 2 – in the Achin district of Nangarhar against a threat to the force.”

Type of attack: US drone or air strikes
Location: Bandar area, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Pajhwok, TOLO News, Khaama Press, US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG162
February 4 2016
♦ 10-15 reported killed

Ten or 15 TTP fighters were reported killed by US drones in eastern Afghanistan.

The attack was carried out in coordination with Afghan troops, according to the provincial assembly’s Deputy Chairman Naimatullah Babari. He said the TTP fighters had moved into Afghanistan after being dislodged from Pakistan by an ongoing army offensive there.

Type of attack: US drone or air strikes
Location: Daman in Marghay area, Bermal district, Paktika province
References: The News

AFG163
February 4 2016
♦ 3 reported killed

Three TTP fighters were killed by US drones in a night time strike, according to Kunar police chief brigadier general Abdul Habib Syedkhel. The dead were reported to be from Bajaur tribal area in Pakistan.

Colonel Michael Lawhorn, a US Forces – Afghanistan spokesman, told the Bureau the US carried out a strike on this date in Shigal district of Kunar. It was a counter-terrorism strike and “it is [US Forces – Afghanistan] policy not to discuss the details of counter-terrorism operations”.

Type of attack: US drone or air strikes
Location: Shiltan area, Shigal district, Kunar province
References: Pajhwok, US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG164
February 5 2016

♦ 16 reported killed

Sixteen Pakistani members of Islamic State – Khorasan were reported killed in one or two US drone strikes in Nangarhar province.

Reporting was confused over the exact order of events and how many people were killed. Some sources reported the US strike killed 16 while an Afghan military operation in neighbouring Batikot district killed a further 12. However other sources attributed both to the US.

An American spokesman confirmed it carried out a counter-terrorism strike in Achin district though refused to comment further citing operational security.

Type of attack: US drone or air strikes
Location: Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Voice of America, TOLO News, Khaama Press

AFG165
February 8 2016
♦ 11 reported killed
♦ 2 reported injured

A reported air strike in the bazaar in Achin district left 11 alleged Islamic State – Khorasan fighters dead.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press

AFG166
February 8 2016
♦ 15 reported killed
♦ 10 reported injured

Fifteen Taliban fighters were reported killed in an airstrike in southern Helmand province.

The attack came as the Guardian newspaper reported a “battalion-strength” force of US soldiers would be deployed to Helmand to prop up the struggling Afghan security forces. The Pentagon said the contingent, that could number as much as 800 soldiers, would not take part in combat but would support existing US and Afghan forces in the province. They would also “bolster force protection for the current staff of advisers” in Helmand.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Nad Ali and Greshk districts, Helmand province
References: TOLO News, The Guardian

AFG167
February 11 2016
♦ 13-18 reported killed

Between 13 and 18 Taliban fighters were reported killed by local residents. US drones destroyed two vehicles that apparently belonged to the Paktika shadow governor’s body guards. The strike hit during clashes between the Taliban and Islamic State – Khorasan Province. The Taliban acknowledged that 13 of their fighters were killed in two attacks in Gomal district.

Colonel Michael Lawhorn, a US Forces – Afghanistan spokesman, told the Bureau the US carried out a strike on this date in Gomal district of Paktika. It was a counter-terrorism strike and “it is [US Forces – Afghanistan] policy not to discuss the details of counter-terrorism operations”.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Gomal district, Paktika province
References: Khaama Press, Khaama Press, US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG168
February 15 2016
♦ 15 reported killed

“Security sources” said Zakir Qamberkhel, deputy commander of Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar e Islami, was killed in a drone strike in Nazyan district, Nangarhar province. Lashkar e Islami’s leader, Manghal Bagh, was said to be working with Islamic State’s Afghan offshoot Islamic State – Khorasan.

Colonel Michael Lawhorn, a US Forces – Afghanistan spokesman, confirmed to the Bureau that the US had carried out a strike on this date in the Nazyan district of Kunar. It was a counter-terrorism strike and “it is [US Forces – Afghanistan] policy not to discuss the details of counter-terrorism operations”.

Type of attack: Possible US drone or air strike
Location: Nazyan district, Nangarhar province
References: Geo TV, US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG169
February 17 2016
♦ 6 reported killed

Six Taliban fighters were killed in a US drone strike, according to the Pakitka governor’s spokesman, Nabiullah Peerkhil. The bodies were removed by other Taliban fighters after the strike hit a hideout, he said.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Raghi area, Gomal district, Paktika province
References: Khaama Press

AFG170
February 18 2016

♦ 6 reported killed

Six “insurgents” were killed in a US drone strike in Nangarhar, the provincial governor’s spokesman said. Ataullah Khogyani told reporters the strike hit a vehicle.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Raghi area, Gomal district, Paktika province
References: Pajhwok

AFG171
February 22 2016
♦ 22-25 reported killed

A US airstrike hit the Afghan Islamic State, IS-K offshoot killed at least 22 people in Nangarhar province.

Attaullah Khogyani, a government spokesman said: “A number of [IS-K] fighters gathered in the Pekha Khwar area intending to attack Afghan security posts, but they were targeted by a drone.”

“US forces conducted a counter-terrorism strike in the Achin district, Nangarhar province, yesterday,” according to US Army spokesman Colonel Michael Lawhorn in Kabul. “For reasons of operational security, we do not discuss counter-terror operations.”

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Pekha Khwar area, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Stars and Stripes, Reuters, TOLO News, Khaama Press

AFG172
February 22 2016
♦ Unknown killed

US aircraft targeted Taliban positions in Baghlan province, north of Kabul, helping break an impasse preventing Afghan forces securing damaged power lines running from Uzbekistan to Kabul. The capital had been without electricity for three weeks after Taliban fighters destroyed electricity pylons and seeded the damaged infrastructure with IEDs.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Dand e Ghori area, Baghlan province
References: New York Times

AFG173
February 26 2016
♦ 3 reported killed

At least three men allegedly affiliated with al Qaeda were reported killed in a strike in Paktika province. The Afghan defence ministry said the US carried out the attack, destroying two motorcycles in the village of Dadul.

Colonel Michael Lawhorn, a US Forces – Afghanistan spokesman, confirmed to the Bureau that the US had carried out a strike on this date in Gomal, Paktika province. It was a counter-terrorism strike and “it is [US Forces – Afghanistan] policy not to discuss the details of counter-terrorism operations”.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Dadul village, Gomal district, Paktika province
References: Khaama Press, US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG174
February 28 2016
♦ 7-9 reported killed

At least seven Islamic State fighters were killed in a US drone strike in Nangarhar, according to the provincial police.

The men were targeted in Achin district on Sunday afternoon. Two “prominent commanders” were reported killed and a number of foreign fighters were also said to be among the dead.

Colonel Michael Lawhorn, a US Forces – Afghanistan spokesman, confirmed to the Bureau that the US had carried out a strike on this date in Achin. It was a counter-terrorism strike and “it is [US Forces – Afghanistan] policy not to discuss the details of counter-terrorism operations”.

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Mamand Dara and Pekha areas, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press, Pajhwok, US Forces – Afghanistan via email


March 2016

AFG175
March 5 2016
♦ 15 reported killed

Fifteen alleged Islamic State fighters were killed in a US drone strike, according to local journalists, the provincial governor’s office and the district police chief.

A US military spokesman, Colonel Michael Lawhorn, confirmed the US had carried out a counter-terrorism strike but would not provide any details.

The strike hit at night and destroyed a cache of weapons and ammunition were reported to have been destroyed.

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Mamond Dara, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press, Pajhwok, Stars and Stripes, TOLO News

AFG175C
March 20 2016
♦ 3 reported killed

Three people were reported dead in an airstrike in Achin, Nangarhar province. They were all described as Islamic State fighters. It was not clear if it was a US or Afghan strike. It hit at 3.30pm local time.

Type of attack: Possible US strike
Location: Mamond area, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press

AFG176
March 21 2016
♦ 8 reported killed

At least eight alleged Islamic State fighters were killed in eastern Nangarhar, according to the provincial police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal.

The attack was reported as a drone strike. It hit a moving vehicle as it drove through Kot district at around 2.30pm (10am GMT) – something beyond the Afghan Air Force. A foreigner was said to be among the dead.

If true, the apparent presence of Islamic State fighters in Nangarhar’s Kot district would contradict the statement that the IS-Khorasan group is limited now to just Achin district of Nangarhar. Colonel Michael Lawhorn, spokesman for US-Forces Afghanistan, told the Bureau that the group had been active in four Nangarhar districts at the start of 2016, down from a high of six districts in the summer of 2015. However IS-Khorasan had been limited to Achin after concerted efforts by the US and Afghan military forces, he said.

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Khwargai area, Kot district, Nangarhar province
References: Pajhwok, Khaama Press

AFG177
March 22 2016

♦ 2-8 reported killed

A strike killed at least two alleged Islamic State fighters in eastern Nangarhar, according to the provincial police chief. The militants were reportedly targeted by a US drone in the Janjal Ghondie area at 2pm (9.30am GMT).

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Janajal Ghondie area, Kot district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press, TOLO News

AFG178
March 22 2016

♦ 5 reported killed

Another US strike in Nangarhar province killed a further five alleged IS-Khorasan fighters, the district governor told Afghan media. Haji Ghalib Mujahid said the attack hit late in the afternoon and killed an unnamed local commander apparently while he was riding a horse.

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Bandar area, Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press

AFG178Ci
March 25 2016
♦ 20 reported killed

The first of three strikes on March 25 that may have been conducted by the US Air Force. However the sources are ambiguous as to who was responsible for the strikes.

Type of attack: Possible US strike
Location: Marjah district, Helmand province
References: Anadolu Agency, Xinhua, Khaama Press

AFG178Cii
March 25 2016
♦ 10 reported killed

The second of the three possible US strikes in Helmand.

Type of attack: Possible US strike
Location: Marjah district, Helmand province
References: Anadolu Agency, Xinhua, Khaama Press

AFG178Ciii
March 25 2016
♦ 73 reported killed

The third of three possible US strikes in Helmand.

Type of attack: Possible US strike
Location: Nad Ali district, Helmand province
References: TOLO News, Khaama Press

AFG179
March 26 2016
♦ 11 reported killed

Eleven alleged Islamic State fighters were killed in a US strike in Nangarhar. However it was not immediately clear whether it hit in Achin or Mamand Dara district.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Mamand Dara or Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Frontier Post, Khaama Press

AFG179C
March 27 2016

♦ 11 reported killed

It is not clear if this attack was a new strike or in fact a report of the strike on the previous day with the incorrect date.

Type of attack: Possible US strike
Location: Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Anadolu Agency

AFG179Ci
March 28 2016
♦ 13 reported killed

A strike killed 13 Taliban fighters in Dasht e Archi district, however it was ambiguously sourced in a news report so was not initially included in the data. Xinhua, via IANS, quoted an unnamed Afghan police source as saying: “Aircraft conducted several sorties against Taliban hideouts at 6.00 a.m. (local time) in Dasht e Archi district on Monday.”

Type of attack: Possible US strike
Location: Dasht e Archi district, Kunduz province
References: Xinhua

Afghan Air Force strike
March 28 2016
♦ 8 reported killed
♦ 13 reported injured

An Afghan Air Force strike in Nuristan left eight alleged Taliban fighters dead and 13 injured.

Type of attack: AAF strike
Location: Du Aab district, Nuristan district
References: Pajhwok


April 2016

AFG180
April 5 2016
♦ 6 reported killed

Six Islamic State fighters and a commander were reported killed by a US strike in the early hours of April 5.

Nangarhar governor’s spokesman, Ataullah Khogyani, said the strike hit a vehicle and a motorcycle and killed a commander, Abulhai.

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Kot district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press

AFG181
April 7 2016
♦ 4 reported killed

Four alleged Islamic State fighters were killed in a US drone strike according to Nangarhar governor’s spokesman Ataullah Khogyani.

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press

AFG182
April 7 2016
♦ 3 reported killed

Three Taliban fighters were killed in the second US drone strike of the day in Nangahar, according to the governor’s spokesman Ataullah Khogyani.

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Dehrawood district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press

AFG183
April 7 2016
♦ 14-21 reported killed
♦ 14-21 civilians reported killed

At least two US air strikes in the southern Paktika province killed between 14 and 21 people. The dead were either all terrorists or all civilians, depending on the source.

Afghan district and provincial politicians went on record accusing the US of killing civilians as they gathered for a meeting to resolve a local dispute. The UN reported two strikes killed 17 civilians, the first hit a civilian vehicle in Naimat village killing 12 and the second in the Chamtovi area killing five.

The US however denied civilians were harmed. On July 26 a spokesperson told the Bureau: “US Forces Afghanistan conducted a Civilian Casualty Credibility Assessment Review Board, or CCARB, into the allegations and are confident that US forces did not kill any non-combatants. During the inquiry, investigators reviewed the results of intelligence collection prior to, and after the strike.”

Immediately following the strike, and first allegations of civilian harm, a US military spokesperson told Reuters the two strikes were aimed at insurgent targets and that there was no evidence that civilians were killed. Afghan security officials including the provincial police chief and the Afghan MoD said all those killed were either Taliban or al Qaeda.

A local news outlet reported a list of names of the dead, compiled and published by the Taliban. The dead were all civilians and tribal elders after the strike targeted their vehicles, Nunn Asia reported. The Bureau has translated and reproduced the list below:

Name
Son of
1Ameer MohammadHaji Saeeb Adam
2AkhtarHaji Dangar
3MateenPeero
4Haji Khan
Wazir
5Abdul Qadim
Mohammad Kareem
6RozuddinZainuddin
7Mohammad Rasool
Haji Degan
8GhaziuddinMohammad  Gul
9Ahmad Shah
Payo
10Malik Gula Jan
Malik Kamaluddin
11Jan Gul
Malik Masoud
12HussainBakht Jamal
13Mohammad Qasim
Eid Gul
14Malik Sher Zaman
Haji Abdul Rahman
15Noorullah Shah
Mohammad Rasool
16Malik Badroo
Malik Khan Mohammad
17Yaar Mohammad
Zahir Khan
18Gul Zaman
Mohammad Khan

 

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Nematabad area, Gomal district, Paktika province
References: Reuters, New York Times, Al Jazeera, Khaama Press, Pajhwok, Foreign Policy, UN, US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG183C
April 9 2016
♦ 25 reported killed

US drones hit a convoy in Kandahar killing 25, according to a report in Khaama Press attributed to the provincial police spokesman. The report said a three-vehicle convoy was hit in a night strike and “suspected militants and drug smugglers” were killed.

However a week after the reported attack, a US military spokesman in Kabul denied any such attack happened, telling the Bureau: “We cannot find an incident that matches the description of [the] report.”

This incident has been removed from our tally and database however remains here as a reference point for further investigation.

Type of attack: Possible US strike
Location: Maiwand district, Kandahar province
References: Khaama Press, US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG183Ci
April 14 2016
♦ 6 reported killed

A US drone attack killed six Taliban fighters, including a commander Syed Umar, according to the provincial police spokesman Lt Col Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal. He the men were traveling in a vehicle when the drone struck.

However in the week following the strike a US spokesman told the Bureau the US only hit Achin district on April 14.

Type of attack: Possible US strike
Location: Khogyani district, Nangarhar province
References: Pajhwok, US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG184
April 14 2016
♦ Unknown killed

A US military spokesman in Kabul told the Bureau: “US forces conducted counter-terrorism strikes in Achin District, Nangarhar Province, April 14. For operational security reasons, we do not discuss the details of counter-terror operations, including type of strike or casualty assessments.” It was not immediately clear how many strikes hit Achin on this day.

Type of attack: US air or drone strike
Location: Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: US Forces – Afghanistan via email

AFG185
April 19 2016
♦ 5 reported killed

US drones reportedly struck a house in the Shadal locality of Achin district killing five Islamic State fighters, a provincial official said.

Attaulllah Khogyani, the governor’s spokesman, said the strike hit a house where the fighters were hiding.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: KUNA, Afghanistan Times, Pajhwok

Afghan Security Forces engagement
April 20 2016
♦ 6 reported killed

Six alleged Taliban fighters were killed by Afghan security forces in a ground engagement in the 27th Wyala area of Ghanikhel district, the provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told the Bureau. The attack was initially reported as an air strike.

Location: 27th Wyala area, Ghanikhel district, Nangarhar province
References: Pajhwok, Afghan official via telephone

AFG186
April 20 2016
♦ 4 reported killed

Four alleged Islamic State fighters were killed in an airstrike in Achin district, the provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told Pajhwok. It was not immediately clear if the attack was by the US or Afghan Air Force however Khogyani subsequently told the Bureau it was a US attack.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Pajhwok, Afghan official via telephone

Afghan Air Force strike
April 27 2016
♦ At least 1 reported killed

The Afghan Air Force killed a Haqqani Network member in a strike near Shahr e Safa city, the Ministry of Defence said.

Type of attack: AAF strike
Location: Shahr e Safa district, Zabul province
References: Khaama Press

AFG186C
April 28 2016
♦ 3 reported killed

US drones killed at least three people in Khost province, according to an unnamed local Afghan official. A named resident said the bodies of those killed were charred beyond recognition. The attack hit a moving vehicle meaning it is highly likely to have been a US air attack as opposed to an Afghan air attack. However the sourcing is too vague to confirm it as a US strike and include it in the casualty tally as yet.

Type of attack: Possible US strike
Location: Lakan area, Khost city, Khost province
References: Pajhwok

AFG187
April 28 2016
♦ 15 reported killed

A reported US drone strike killed 15 alleged Islamic State fighters in an attack in Nangarhar. The strike hit a hideout at night.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Narai Obam area, Haska Mena district, Nangarhar province
References: Pajhwok

AFG188
April 30 2016
♦ 38 reported killed

Afghan and US air forces conducted between seven and nine strikes in eastern  Nangarhar province, killing approximately 38 people.

There were between seven and nine air attacks in the eastern province targeting “anti-government armed militants,” according to the provincial governor’s spokesman, Ataullah Khogyani. Five of the attacks hit in Haska Mena and Chaparhar districts and were US drone strikes, he told the Bureau.

He had earlier told Khaama Press air attacks in those districts had killed 38 people – 15 in Haska Mina and 23 in Chaparhar. He also said infighting between armed factions left 19 dead and five wounded.

Type of attack: US drone or air strike
Location: Chaparhar and Haska Mina, Nangarhar province
References

Further clarification is needed on the legal justification for the UK’s drone strike in Syria. Greater transparency is ultimately in the government’s interests.

The UK government has asserted the right of self-defence as the legal justification for its drone strike in Syria, but the application of this and other rules of international law needs further clarification. Greater transparency is also needed, given the change of policy direction and the importance of public and parliamentary confidence in the government’s use of drones.

On 7 September, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that a UK drone had killed three members of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria, two of whom were British nationals. He stated that there was no other option to protect the UK from imminent armed attacks, and that the attorney general had confirmed that there was a clear legal basis to act. 

The targeting of ISIS fighters in Syria marks a change in direction by the government, which to date has been tackling the terrorism threat to the UK by and large under the criminal justice model – that is, by prosecution and trial. The government justified military action against ISIS in Iraq as being for the collective self-defence of Iraq, and with Iraq’s consent. 

But the widening of UK action against ISIS into Syria requires its own legal justification, which in turn depends on defining the nature of that action. Was the drone attack in Syria an act of self-defence in the face of a threat of imminent attack on the UK – and if so, did it take place within the framework of an ongoing armed conflict against ISIS fighters or was it an action of law enforcement against individuals involved in terrorism? If it was the latter, is it lawful to target individuals in this way?

Self-defence

The criteria governing the right to use force in self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter are that the threatened attack is imminent, and that the act of self-defence is both necessary and proportionate. In its letter of 7 September 2015 to the UN Security Council, the government states that these criteria are met.

The exercise of self-defence in this case is not against a state but against an armed group, which brings its own legal difficulties. Although not uncontroversial, an argument can be made that military action against armed groups, without the consent of the state in which they are to be found, is lawful if that state is unable and unwilling to prevent the armed groups attacking other states. But the criteria for self-defence in such a case must be strictly applied. The 2005 Chatham House working paper entitled Principles of International Law on the Use of Force by States in Self-Defence suggests that only in the ‘most compelling emergency’ could it be justified for the threatened state itself to take military action in self-defence before an attack is launched. One of the difficulties in assessing situations like this is that the lawfulness will depend on the evidence. The government will continue to be asked for further information.

An armed conflict or law enforcement?

There seems to be confusion as to whether the UK government regards itself as being in an armed conflict with ISIS. The government’s letter to the Security Council refers to the ongoing armed attacks by ISIS against Iraq, and seems to link the strike to the existence of an armed conflict. However, the prime minister himself stated that ‘this strike was not part of coalition military action against ISIL in Syria’. 

If the strike were part of an existing armed conflict, international humanitarian law would apply, including rules on targeting which permit the killing of fighters in a ‘non-international’ armed conflict. But one military strike in self-defence does not give rise to the intensity of action required to meet the threshold for a non-international armed conflict. For an isolated act of self-defence, only human rights law applies. That law sets a very high threshold before the taking of life can be justified: the threat to others must be immediate (as in a policing operation). It is not unreasonable that human rights law should constrain such actions. No one can expect that governments may kill individuals outside armed conflict without legal regulation.

Greater transparency

The Iraq war left the public, parliament and civil society with a lack of faith in the UK’s use of intelligence as the basis for controversial military actions. The UK’s change of direction against ISIS in Syria has sparked calls from many commentators for greater clarity on the government’s position, and for disclosure of the legal advice it has received.

While the government cannot be expected to release confidential intelligence information, some form of greater transparency on the application of the relevant legal criteria would help to reassure parliament and the public that the assessment process is sound and made in good faith. More transparency in this area could also lessen the likelihood of such attacks encouraging more people to join terrorist groups in the UK or elsewhere. On a broader level, it is important to reassure the public that drones – which are set to become an integral part of the UK’s military capability – are being used within a framework of rigorous scrutiny and established procedures.

There is a range of options for greater transparency that would fall short of disclosing intelligence or the full advice of the attorney general. These include publication of a summary of the legal advice (as with the Iraq war); scrutiny of the decision by a parliamentary body such as the Intelligence and Security Committee; or review by other security-cleared officials such as privy counsellors or the UK’s independent reviewer on counterterrorism, David Anderson QC. Improving public and parliamentary confidence in the legal basis for strikes may also strengthen the government’s hand in any future vote on military action in Syria. 

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