DeM Banter: more nations look to utilize drones with more questions on engagement, employment, and ethics.
November 21, 2012
The Government was under pressure last night to reveal more about its use of armed drones in Afghanistan and to clarify whether British intelligence is used to help the CIA to kill terrorist suspects in drone strikes outside conventional warzones.
A committee of MPs and peers has written to Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, and William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, with a series of questions about Britain’s policy on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), The Times has learnt. The weapon is regarded by the Ministry of Defence as an increasingly important part of its arsenal but seen by human rights campaigners as a controversial killing machine.
Rehman Chishti, a Conservative MP and member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, said that he wanted a review of the way the military deployed drones because of concerns over civilian casualties caused by strikes. “I think there needs to be far more debate than what we have had before in terms of the usage of these drones,” said Mr Chishti, previously an adviser to Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan who was assassinated in 2007.
The Times revealed yesterday that the Commons Defence Select Committee was planning to launch an inquiry into Britain’s use of UAVs, a move that Mr Chisti welcomed.
The questions that the Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary have been asked to answer by today include whether Britain has shared intelligence with the US Government that has led “directly or indirectly to targeted drone strikes in Pakistan”. The committee also asked: “What is the Government’s policy on the use of drones, particularly with regard to their current operation in Afghanistan?” Mr Hammond disputed the idea that the Royal Air Force’s armed Reaper drones were “shrouded in secrecy”.
“The rules of engagement for Reaper deployed weapons are no different to those used for manned combat aircraft,” he told The Times.