Tag Archives: drones

Stratfor looks at the next phase of terrorism: ISIS drones

Summary: Stratfor looks at the videos of ISIS using drones and discusses their potential applications of this new weapon. Will we see ISIS drones in the skies of America? Stratfor

Beyond the Buzz: Assessing the Terrorist Drone Threat

By  Scott Stewart at Stratfor, 9 February 2017.

The Islamic State is taking to the skies as the fight for Mosul wears on. Over the past several weeks, the extremist group has been flaunting its use of unmanned aerial vehicles against Iraqi army and Kurdish forces in and around the city. Propaganda videos feature dramatic aerial footage of the precision attacks, and they have produced their intended effect, receiving heavy coverage in mainstream media outlets. So far, the Islamic State has deployed this technique only in Iraq and Syria. That’s likely soon to change, though, considering the attention the group’s drone attacks have been getting and the prevalence of drones in the West. Drone attacks are coming. But they do not necessarily portend death from above.

The Islamic State’s use of drones is nothing new. Since 2014, the group has been using the technology to conduct reconnaissance on enemy defensive positions and to capture aerial footage of attacks for use in propaganda videos. It has also used drone video feeds to adjust fire from mortars, artillery guns and rockets against static targets. And though the group still employs drones for these purposes, over the past year, it has started using them offensively as well, either as guided airborne bombs or as vehicles to carry and drop ordnance on enemy targets. This new development has caused a stir in the media and stoked fears that Islamic State operatives could use the tactic in terrorist attacks outside the group’s core territory.

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Stratfor: The Unstoppable Spread of Armed Drones

Summary:  America has played a special role in the post-WWII era, repeatedly unleashing horrors on the world. We started the nuclear arms race by bombing Japan, staged the first cyberattack on Iran (we now live in fear of the next being on us), and now we’re flooding the world with armed drones. Here Stratfor explains the likely consequences.

Stratfor

The Unstoppable Spread of Armed Drones
Stratfor, 25 October 2016.

Forecast

  • The United States will continue to lead in the development of armed drone technology, but China has taken the lead in drone exports and therefore has a bigger influence on the application of armed systems.
  • Only the United States and China have exported armed drones, but other countries are expected to join the lucrative market, causing a surge in globally available systems.
  • Because exporting states do not perceive a threat from armed drones, there is little willpower to establish a legal framework to curb their proliferation.

Analysis

The presence of armed drones is a reality of the modern battlefield, but only a limited group of countries has the technological ability to produce them or the military capacity to operate them. The United States once held the edge in drone development and use, but as more countries gain access to the technology, armed drones have entered a new stage of proliferation. From the perspective of the United States and others, this proliferation is dangerous. Attempts to curb the spread of armed drones are becoming more difficult now that the United States is no longer their sole developer. China, in particular, has grown as a global exporter of unmanned combat systems, and other countries are planning to follow suit.

Though the use of unmanned aerial vehicles has spread across all sectors at an incredible pace, the military in particular was quick to embrace drone technology. Even less-developed militaries now typically have some capability, though limited, to deploy unmanned platforms for surveillance and reconnaissance. So, too, do non-state actors, including militant and terrorist groups, albeit using technologically restricted commercial drones. The deployment of dedicated combat drones carrying offensive weapons systems has progressed at a reduced rate, however. Besides the significant legal and ethical concerns that surround the use of lethal platforms, only two suppliers are known to exist: the United States and China. More countries, such as Russia, Israel, Turkey and South Korea, are likely close behind. The increased availability will give other countries more opportunities to acquire armed drones.

Many countries have sought access to armed drones, but only a few have found suppliers willing to sell them. Of those, even fewer have actually employed the vehicles in combat. The United States has so far exported armed drones to only the United Kingdom and Italy, and just last year more stringent requirements were placed on U.S. exports to keep the technology out of the wrong hands.

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Martin van Creveld: it’s the age of failed airpower. Yet we try, try, try again.

Summary: Today Martin van Creveld examines one of the great oddities of our time — our persistent and absurdly unjustified faith in the power of airpower to defeat 4th generation foes. Future historians will marvel at our inability to learn from experience, of which this is just one example.

Italian-Turkish War

First aerial bombing: 1 Nov 1911 in Libya, Italian-Turkish War.

When Will They Ever Learn?

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 1 October 2015
Posted with his generous permission

For over a year now, the US armed forces have been fighting The Monster. AKA ISIS, AKA DAESH, AKA one of the most ferocious band of cut-throats the world has ever seen. Joining President Assad’s Army, who is the only one with the necessary guts, as of this writing Turkish, Russian, and French forces have all entered the fray. So, in less direct ways, have some 60 other countries. As the growing list of belligerents indicates, without too much success. Fearing casualties, officially at any rate none of the above mentioned interventionist forces have deployed boots on the ground. They prefer to rely on air strikes instead.

So just to remind those of you who may have forgotten, here is a short list of some of the things airborne devices, regardless of whether they are or are not manned, fly high or low or circle the earth in the manner of satellites, can not do:

  • The cost-benefit relationship of airborne devices means they have difficulty coping with a widely dispersed enemy. In plain words: one cannot send an F-16 or a Predator after every terrorist, real or, much less, suspected.
  • Airborne devices cannot take prisoners and interrogate people. In other words obtain HUMINT from both enemy combatants and the civilian population.
  • Airborne devices cannot look inside houses and other buildings which terrorists/guerrillas/insurgents use to hide, plan their operations, store weapons, recuperate, and so on.
  • Airborne devices, owing to their inability to look inside, cannot normally block transportation arteries except by shooting up everything that moves on them. In other words, they cannot do so in a discriminating manner; it is either/or.
  • Airborne devices cannot occupy territory and hold it. To quote a World War I saying which still holds true in many cases: They come from the devil knows where; drop bombs on the devil knows what; and disappear to the devil knows where.

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The real significance of our drone war, and why you’ll hear little about it in Campaign 2016

Summary: Nothing shows the decay of the Republic like our drone wars, almost mindless killing — now including execution of Americans by Presidential decree. To see how accustomed we’ve become to these steps to a new regime, this post looks at a typical story in the New York Times plus an analysis of it by an eminent law professor. Then I draw some obvious but alarming conclusions.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

The King rules that you must die.

Lettre de cachet

The New York Times gently reports that a new “Terrorism Case Renews Debate Over Drone Hits“. Excerpt:

Mohanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, who was arrested last year in Pakistan based on intelligence provided by the United States, came after a years long debate inside the government about whether to kill an American citizen overseas without trial — an extraordinary step taken only once before, when the Central Intelligence Agency killed the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011.

Mr. Farekh’s court appearance also came as the Obama administration was struggling to fashion new guidelines for targeted killings. The decision to use an allied intelligence service to arrest Mr. Farekh has bolstered a case made by some that capturing — rather than killing — militant suspects, even in some of the world’s most remote places, is more feasible than the orders for hundreds of drone strikes might indicate.

… The Obama administration’s discussions about the fate of Mr. Farekh, who used the nom de guerre Abdullah al-Shami, began in earnest in 2012, and in the months that followed the C.I.A. and the Pentagon ramped up surveillance of his movements around Pakistani tribal areas.

… But the Justice Department, particularly Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., was skeptical of the intelligence dossier on Mr. Farekh, questioning whether he posed an imminent threat to the United States and whether he was as significant a player in Al Qaeda as the Pentagon and the C.I.A. described. Mr. Holder and his aides also thought it might be possible to capture Mr. Farekh and bring him to trial.

We have to love this nod to the nature of “news” (aka pravda) in New America, where everything we need to know is classified secret — and anyone other than government officials giving us this information is a spy (giving info to the government’s enemies — which includes us). We not only should believe what we’re told but also be content with what little we’re told. They tell us all we need to know.

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Review of “Kill Chain: Rise of the High-tech Assassins”

Summary:  Today we have a review of an important book about America’s post-9/11 policy of mass assassination. We’ve adopted a tactic that both history and theory suggests will fail, and which has repeatedly failed since 9/11. Books like this explain what we’re doing wrong, but only political action by us together will reverse our mad geopolitical policies.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“Assassination is the perquisite of kings.”
— attributed to Umberto I of Italy.

Kill Chain

Review of Andrew Cockburn’s
Kill Chain:
The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins

Reviewed by Chuck Spinney.
Posted at his website The Blaster.
Posted here with his generous permission.

Caveat emptor: the author of this book is a friend of 35 years, so I am biased, proudly so in this case.  While I know what Cockburn can do, I must admit I was literally blown away by this book. And I am no stranger to this subject, having worked as an engineer-analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon for 25 years.

What makes Cockburn’s book so powerful, in my opinion, is not only his sourcing and detail (which are amazing), but the fact that he has written a book that is at once overwhelming in terms of information, yet so well written, it is accessible to the general reader.  It is a page turner.  He dissects the rise of drone warfare and examines its conduct in fascinating detail from the point of view of the targeteers in the CIA and the White House, to the controllers in front of video screens, and to the effects on the victims at the receiving end.

In so doing, he shows how the ideology of drone warfare is really old wine in a new bottle: it is a natural evolution of three interconnected mindsets:

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Victory through airpower! We always believe the promise, despite the past.

Summary: We gear up for another round of wars, repeating the same methods that failed repeatedly since WWII, with pregame performances more predictable than a Superbowl’s halftime festival. Today we look at the grand claims of certain easy victory through airpower. Like Charlie Brown listening to Lucy, each time we believe — ignoring past disappointments.

“There are no innocent civilians. It is their government and you are fighting a people, you are not trying to fight an armed force anymore. So it doesn’t bother me so much to be killing the so-called innocent bystanders.”

— Curtis LeMay, interviewed by Michael Sherry after WWII, in his book The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon, Yale University Press (1989).

Victory Thru Airpower

Today’s propaganda: “How America’s Drones Can Defeat ISIS“, Arthur Herman (senior fellow at Hudson Institute, created as cheerleaders to the USAF ), Defense One, 15 March 2015. None dare call it warmongering, although that’s what it is. The money paragraph:

“Fortunately, Carter will have at hand the perfect tool for delivering a series of mortal blows against ISIS without putting a single American soldier on the ground: America’s fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAV’s.”

These performances before our wars are as predictable as a waltz. Each round of air power advocacy makes bold predictions of easy certain victory buttressed by grandiose but false claims about previous air wars.

Something similar happened more recently, almost by accident, in Kosovo in 1999, when persistent NATO air strikes so cleared away Serbian resistance that Kosovar militias were able to come down from surrounding hills and retake lost ground.

If we lift our habitual fog of amnesia to remember that war, even RAND, loyal servant of the USAF that created it), added a realistic note amidst its ritualistic accolades about the awesome Kosovo air war:

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We’re goading our enemies to attack America. Eventually we’ll succeed, and they will.

Summary: Our national security agencies have put us on course for a dark future, albeit one that greatly benefits them. We feel exceptional in our ability to kill people in far-away lands, yet fear the inevitable reprisals on the “Homeland”. Like similarly mad events a century ago in Europe, afterwards nobody will recall why we thought this was rational. Today let’s look at some evidence, trying to do so with the eyes of a future generation.

At almost the same time {Spring 1965} Phil Geyelin, a White House correspondent who knew Southeast Asia well, found himself troubled by the same kind of doubts about the direction of American policy and turned to William Bundy {Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs}. Did we really know where we were headed? he asked. Did we really know what we would do if the bombing failed, if he other side decided to match our escalation with its own?

Bundy reassured him; he said he had never been so confident about any undertaking before. Vietnam was no Bay of Pigs, he emphasized; he had never seen anything so thoroughly staffed, so well planned. It reeked of expertise and professionalism, it all gave one a great sense of confidence.

— From The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam (1972).

New CIA Logo

New CIA Logo.

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More than a decade of studies in Pakistan by organizations such as Pew Research and the New American Foundation show that our drone assassins make people distrust, dislike, and often hate us. Scores of leaked intelligence agency documents and statements by experts report that they’re among the most effective recruitment tools of jihadist insurgents.

Even more obviously, we’ve fought jihadists for 13 years using such tools — spec ops kidnapping and executions, invasion and occupation of their lands, support for their corrupt and tyrannical rulers, and bombings bombings bombings. The result: a region set on fire, with the fire spreading to new lands (a welcome opportunity for DoD to expand Africom).

We have run this course before, obvious to anyone who has read The Pentagon Papers (or its excellent derivative The Best and the Brightest). Mindlessly brutal strategies, endlessly repeated and even expanded despite their failure, until catastrophic final defeat. This time we target a region and a major religion, not just the backwater of North Vietnam. We are exceptional in our FAILure to learn and drive to self-destruction.

Unlike during the Vietnam War, today we have heroes attempting to warn us: whistleblowers and leakers. Like so many heroes in history, they’re unappreciated by us (as bearers of bad news) and attacked by the government (especially by Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize-wearing leader of the “most transparent administration ever“). So far we have ignored their warnings.

What comes next? How long can we send flying robots to kill, with the inevitable “collateral damage” — blowing women and children into red mist — before people get angry enough to come over here to administer tit-for-tat? How many headlines like today’s: “U.S. airstrike in Syria may have killed 50 civilians“? Do we see this retaliation in our future, perhaps explaining our high level of fear?

We probably would respond intemperately to such an attack, perhaps with destruction of a Middle Eastern city — mass murder of people who had as little role in the attack on us as did the people in Iraq and Afghanistan on 9/11. Then we would have fulfilled bin Laden’s dream, starting a full-scale clash of civilizations between us and them. That’s a future our national security agencies lead us to.

The CIA fast-tracks us to disaster.

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