August 2013 Update: US covert actions in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia
by Jack Serle and Alice K Ross
Secretary of State John Kerry meets President Asif Ali Zardari in Pakistan.Yemen sees more strikes in a month than any time since March 2012.
(State Department photo/Public Domain).
One strike in Pakistan ends 34-day stretch without an attack.
Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières pulls out of Somalia.
August 2013 actions
Total CIA strikes in August: 1
Total killed in strikes in August: 3-4, of whom 0 were reportedly civilians
All actions 2004 – August 31 2013
Total Obama strikes: 321
Total US strikes since 2004: 372
Total reported killed: 2,508-3,588
Civilians reported killed: 407-926
Children reported killed: 168-200
Total reported injured: 1,112-1,494
For the Bureau’s full Pakistan databases click here.
US Secretary of State John Kerry started the month with a visit to Islamabad in which he said drone strikes in Pakistan would end 'very, very soon’. This statement was quickly taken back by the Department of State. A spokesman said: 'In no way would we ever deprive ourselves of a tool to fight a threat if it arises.’
On August 31 CIA drones killed four alleged militants from the Islamic Movement of Turkmenistan. Locals said they were foreigners affiliated with militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. It was the only strike in the month.
The lull in strikes this month in Pakistan came as an international security alert centred on Yemen led to a reported shift in focus from Pakistan’s tribal areas to the Middle East. Yemeni officials claimed a Pakistani bomb-maker had been killed in the sudden surge of Yemen strikes after crossing into the country.
Also in August, the Pakistan government said there had been a tacit understanding between Washington and Islamabad over drone strikes, not a written agreement – although it did not say when the understanding had started, or whether it was still in place. This came in response to questions in the National Assembly. The Pakistan government also came under pressure in the Punjab assembly, which adopted a resolution condemning drone strikes.
August 2013 actions
Confirmed US drone strikes: 6
Further reported/possible US strike events: 2
Total reported killed in US operations: 22-43
Civilians reported killed in US strikes: 6
All actions 2002 – August 31 2013*
Confirmed US drone strikes: 54-64Possible extra US drone strikes: 82-101
Total reported killed: 268-393
Civilians reported killed: 21-58
Children reported killed: 5
Reported injured: 65-147
Total reported killed: 289-467
Civilians reported killed: 23-48
Children reported killed: 6-9
Reported injured: 83-109
All other US covert operations: 12-77
Total reported killed: 148-377
Civilians reported killed: 60-88
Children reported killed: 25-26
Reported injured: 22-111
Click here for the full Yemen data.
* All but one of these actions have taken place during Obama’s presidency. Reports of incidents in Yemen often conflate individual strikes. The range in the total strikes and total drone strikes we have recorded reflects this.
A terror alert centred on Yemen gripped the US in August leading to six confirmed drone strikes. The US closed 21 diplomatic missions in the Middle East and east Africa in a move that one counter-terrorism expert called 'crazy pants'.
August saw the highest number of confirmed drone strikes since March 2012 when the Sanaa-based government, with considerable US air support, drove al Qaeda out of its southern and central provinces.
Of the 22-43 people killed, three were said to be senior militants. Alleged commanders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Saleh al Tays al Waeli and Saleh Ali Guti (aka Saleh Jouti) reportedly died on August 6, while Qaid Ahmad Nasser al Dhahab, described as AQAP’s 'spiritual leader’ was killed in a night-time precision attack that was likely to be a drone strike on August 30.
Six civilians were reportedly killed, three children among them: two were adolescents, Hussain, 16, and Hassan, 17. The name and age of the third child is not known.
The unusual intensity of the drone strikes appears to support reports suggesting that restrictive new targeting rules, introduced at the time of President Obama’s major speech on drones in May, were relaxed in the face of the 'elevated threat'. A senior US official told the New York Times the list of people who could be targeted was increased: 'Before, we couldn’t necessarily go after a driver for the organization; it’d have to be an operations director. Now that driver becomes fair game because he’s providing direct support to the plot.’
The exact details of the plot – believed to be the work of AQAP – are unknown. However President Hadi told Yemeni police cadets that it involved two huge car bombs, one intended for an oil terminal and the other a target in the capital.
August 2013 actions
Total reported US operations: 0
All actions 2007 – August 31 2013
US drone strikes: 3-9
Total reported killed: 7-27
Civilians reported killed: 0-15
Children reported killed: 0
Reported injured: 2-24
All other US covert operations: 7-14
Total reported killed: 47-143
Civilians reported killed: 7-42
Children reported killed: 1-3
Reported injured: 12-20
Click here for the Bureau’s full data on Somalia.
There were again no recorded US attacks in Somalia this month.
Médecins Sans Frontières announced it was ending all operations in the country after over 20 years of continuous work.
The medical charity said it was pulling out because of 'extreme attacks on its staff in an environment where armed groups and civilian leaders increasingly support, tolerate, or condone the killing, assaulting, and abducting of humanitarian aid workers.’ Sixteen MSF workers have been killed in Somalia since 1991 and just last month two kidnapped MSF staff were released after 21 months in captivity.
It also emerged that six major British financial institutions are evaluating their investments with BT following allegations by legal charity Reprieve that the telecoms giant had supplied communications infrastructure that was used to target drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen. BT has the $23m (£15m) contract to provide telecommunications between RAF Croughton and Camp Lemonnier, the US base in Djibouti from which drone strikes in the countries are flown.
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