This roundup, curated by ReThink Media, looks at how the media is talking about drone warfare (and related topics) and what stories are being told.

With little transparency from governments on this topic, this roundup aims to be as comprehensive as possible, identifying breaking news, trends, developing stories, or interesting narratives. Rethink Media also use media coverage to compile a snapshot of strikes each week. The short version can be read here.

United States

On the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan: It’s not ending the wars if military operations, drone strikes, and CIA-backed operations continue in Afghanistan and across the Middle East and North Africa
“We will not take our eye off the terrorist threat,” Mr. Biden said in a televised address. “We will reorganize our counterterrorism capabilities and the substantial assets in the region to prevent re-emergence of terrorist threat to our homeland.” [LAT / David Cloud and David Lauter]
The U.S. military is mulling how to position its aircraft throughout the Middle East and Asia to continue airstrikes and intelligence-gathering missions in Afghanistan, as American forces prepare to leave key installations like Bagram Air Base behind, the head of U.S. Central Command said this week. [Air Force Times / Rachel Cohen]
“We will look to continue funding key capabilities, such as the Afghan air force and Special Mission Wing,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. “And we will seek to continue paying salaries for Afghan security forces.” There may also continue to be a U.S. counter-terrorism presence “in the region,” he added. [Military Times / Meghann Myers]
Striking terrorist targets in Afghanistan without a U.S. troop presence there will be “harder” but “not impossible,” the top U.S. general overseeing the region said Tuesday. Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said he is in the midst of “detailed planning” for options for “over the horizon” forces, or forces positioned elsewhere in the region that could continue counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan. He plans to give Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin those options by the end of the month, he added. [Air Force Mag / Brian Everstine]  [Washington Examiner / Abraham Mahshie]
Speaking broadly about options to continue strikes once U.S. troops leave, McKenzie said surveillance drones could be positioned in a place where they can reach Afghanistan “in a matter of minutes” or ”perhaps much further away.” McKenzie also said there are a “variety of ways” to strike targets, including long-range precision fire missiles, manned raids or manned aircraft. [The Hill / Rebecca Kheel] [Defense News / Joe Gould]
“We don’t plan to go back in. We’re not planning for that,” McKenzie stressed. “I didn’t say we wouldn’t go back in to strike. But we’re not planning to go back in to reoccupy.” [CNN / Oran Liebermann and Barbara Starr]

Flying unstaffed aircraft like the MQ-9 Reaper from Qatar entails a six- to eight-hour round trip, reducing the time the drones can spend over Afghanistan. That means the military would need a high number of drones to attain 24-hour coverage over multiple areas of Afghanistan at a time when the Pentagon is seeking to shift surveillance resources to East Asia. Current and former officials said the administration will likely consider closer options for drone operations, including Uzbekistan. Current and former officials said that major advances in surveillance technology nevertheless means U.S. visibility would be far better in Afghanistan than it was before 9/11. [WaPo / Missy Ryan, Shane Harris and Paul Sonne]
“The U.S. will leave without having accomplished its goals and with more Afghan suffering ahead. It also doesn’t seem that America’s own “forever war” is actually ending. Biden reserved the right to carry out airstrikes and raids against suspected threats in Afghanistan indefinitely — washing America’s hands of its involvement in inter-Afghan conflict, while signaling that the United States would still be killing people in the country when it deems necessary.” [The Intercept / Murtaza Hussain]
”Read past the headlines, and it turns out Joe Biden’s supposed withdrawal from Afghanistan is nothing of the kind — it delays ending the war while envisioning continued “anti-terrorism” action in the future with no end in sight.” [Jacobin Mag / Branko Marcetic]
“We have seen this play out before, as drone strikes kill civilians outside of warzones in Pakistan, Somalia, Niger, and elsewhere around the world, to little public attention. The risk then, is not only that operations will continue in Afghanistan, but that the death toll from U.S. actions will continue to rise, with little attention or oversight.” [The American Prospect / Lauren Woods]
“What remains to be seen is how far this will go. Several other areas loom as tests… The drone program has been a major component of our ongoing war on terror, so the quality of the evaluation, and whether a real change in policy takes place, will help clarify whether we’re fundamentally reorienting our posture.” [WaPo / Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent]
“If we really want to prove to the world and to our own people that America is serious about transparency, oversight, accountability, and human rights, we need to see some proverbial heads roll for the unmitigated, murderous disaster that was the Global War on Terror.” [Occupy Democrats / Colin Taylor]
Cypress College Political Science Professor Peter Mathews said there is “of course a danger that Al-Qaeda can come back” but having troops on the ground is not the most effective way to deal with terrorists. “Nowadays it’s much better to use counterterrorism through remote means, through intelligence, through drone strikes at high profile who want to go international.”  [Sky News]
“Afghanistan will go down as another lesson in the folly of leaders whose egos simply do not allow them to think they are involved in a failure, so they contrive to paint it as a success. The U.S. has built a stable of weapons that can kill people wherever it desires. Drones and bombs that can go and drop anywhere we want them to. But the U.S. never bothered to figure out the rest of the equation.” [NYT / Maureen Dowd]
“This is how America withdraws from unwinnable conflicts in the 21st century: with assurances that it will continue to launch airstrikes as it sees fit.” [The Daily Beast / Spencer Ackerman]
Eisenhower Carrier strike group could extend stay in Middle East to cover Afghanistan withdrawal [USNI News / Sam LaGrone]
COMMENTARY: Leaving Afghanistan isn’t enough to end America’s forever wars. [TIME / Phil Klay] COMMENTARY: “Sorry General McKenzie, it’s no to an endless war on terror.” [Washington Examiner /Dan Depetris]
COMMENTARY: “War has gotten too expensive and the returns too meager. Diplomacy has been maligned as weak and ineffective. Intelligence has been mostly acquired through satellites and unmanned drones, and the world goes on. We haven’t even managed to find a way to stop domestic terrorists. We need to find a solution. It’s foolish to waste so much money on pointless wars and criminal to ask our children to sacrifice their lives for an outdated model of international relations.” [The Good Men Project / Tim Clark]
COMMENTARY: Two professors at West Point’s Modern War Institute say, “Don’t believe the made-in-Hollywood hoopla about drones or cyber deciding the next war. Being able to decisively take and hold territory — whether in Crimea or Taiwan or a sandy patch of the Middle East — is what matters. The rest is all sci-fi fantasy.” [ / John Spencer and Steve Leonard]

Drone strike victims in Yemen are desperate for accountability from the US
Ahmed’s near-decade of anxiety offers a window into the lives of thousands of Yemenis who have survived, witnessed, or been proximate to U.S. drone strikes. While the Biden administration is currently conducting a review of lethal counterterrorism missions outside of war zones, the United States has never honestly grappled with U.S. attacks in Yemen, much less the now-multigenerational psychological fallout, instead maintaining that as few as four civilians may have been killed during almost 20 years of air and ground strikes.
In a bid for some measure of accountability and protection for his family, Ahmed recently filed a complaint with Germany’s highest court regarding the role of a U.S. base in Germany to the drone war in Yemen. Along with others, he also wants answers from the Biden administration about the reasons they and their children must live in a perpetual state of fear. Their questions, passed along to the White House by VICE World News, have gone unanswered.  
The impact of drones on Yemeni children has been devastating. Members of the bin Ali Jaber family, who live in a different province, more than 400 miles away, echoed this testimony. “Our children are suffering from psychological trauma,” said Ahmed bin Ali Jaber. “When children hear the drones hovering above, they begin screaming and run to their homes.”  Khaled explained that all he can do for his children is usher them inside and turn up the volume on the radio to drown out the incessant whirring of the drones flying overhead. [VICE / Nick Turse]
RELATED: Ex-Royal Air Force drone operator ‘suffered PTSD’ after attacks on Islamic State. [The Times / Larisa Brown]

Biden is proceeding with Donald Trump’s biggest arms deal
The Biden administration intends to move ahead with a proposed $23 billion arms sale with the United Arab Emirates, previously approved by Trump’s White House, following a review by the State Department. [
Defense Daily / Matthew Beinart]
The news ― first reported by HuffPost ― came amid an ongoing lawsuit by a nonprofit group called the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs. On Wednesday morning, the group submitted a new filing against Secretary of State Antony Blinken in federal court. The document adds victims of UAE actions as plaintiffs, including the families of Libyans killed in a January 2020 drone strike for which the Emiratis have not acknowledged responsibility. [HuffPost / Akbar Shahid Ahmed]
The State Department official, who requested anonymity to discuss policies that had not been officially announced, noted that it would take years to complete the Emirati arms deal and that during that period the administration would ensure that the country was living up to obligations, such as to protect American technology and to ensure that U.S. arms were not used in contexts that violate human rights and the laws of conflict. [NYT / Michael Crowley and Edward Wong]
President Joe Biden’s U-turn on ending US support for offensive operations in Yemen earlier this week with the resumption of arms sale to the UAE has been condemned as a “disastrous” move by Human Rights Watch. [Middle East Monitor]
Will US drone sales to the UAE clip Chinese wings in the Middle East? [Middle East Eye / Paul Iddon] COMMENTARY: “The UAE’s conduct in the Middle East and North Africa should disqualify it from receiving U.S. arms at this time. To do otherwise would be to endorse its reckless activities. Failing to hold the UAE accountable for its current and past misdeeds will send a terrible signal to other authoritarian regimes that this kind of behavior is acceptable to the United States, increasing the chances that it will continue, to the detriment of U.S. and global security.” [Forbes / Bill Hartung]

The US Marshals Service flew unmanned drones over Washington, D.C., in response to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, documents obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act show. [The Intercept / Sam Biddle]
A US military drone crashed at the Hancock Airport in Syracuse, NY back in June 2020, but the Air Force didn’t alert the public. 
EDITORIAL: Military, Hancock were wrong to keep Reaper drone crash a secret [ ]
INTERVIEW: “As the US military increasingly outsources the most important parts of war, American imperialism has evolved into something that can’t be measured merely by counting the number of boots on the ground. But it’s still highly profitable for corporate elites and spreads death and misery around the globe — and it still must be dismantled.” [Jacobin Mag / Anand Gopal]
COMMENTARY: “After the [Bring Back Our Girls] hashtag, seven foreign nations poured billions of dollars — in drones, intelligence officers, satellite coverage, special forces, FBI agents, CIA officers and eventually foreign mercenaries — into a four-country search zone to free a group of ordinary teenagers transformed by social media into a central prize in America’s global war on terror.” [WaPo / Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw]
COMMENTARY: Daniel Hale blew the whistle on the US’s illegal drone program. He’s a hero, not a criminal. [Jacobin Mag / Chip Gibbons]
In Nevada, antiwar protesters have been leading peaceful actions outside Creech Air Force Base all week, blocking its gates to protest U.S. drone warfare. [Radio HC]

Boston Robotic’s Spot quadruped robot seems to be hitting the battlefield with a group of French Army trainees in a series of drills and simulations that explore how these currently unarmed robots could work side-by-side with humans. [Gizmodo / John Biggs]
Russia is setting up its first military unit with killer robot tanks, despite “shortcomings” identified during tests in Syria. [Futurism / Victor Tangermann]

COMMENTARY: “Worried about the autonomous weapons of the future? Look at what’s already gone wrong” [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists / Ingvild Bode]

About a week before the [United States of Al] premiere, the producers and writers held an advanced screening of the series for a group of Afghan and Afghan-American journalists, followed by a question-and-answer session during which several accusations and insults were hurled at the writers and the lead character.  In addition to Anwar, one of the series’ other Afghan writers who was present at the Q&A was Habib Zahori. “I was humiliated, I felt so ashamed and so embarrassed,” Zahori says of the Q&A. “When you are saying that the story I wrote is in the service of American imperialism, how is that different from calling a black person an Uncle Tom? I didn’t expect that from our community.” [The National / Sulaiman Hakemy]
COMMENTARY: “But there are stakes at hand that extend beyond the representation of an Afghan immigrant in a sitcom. Americans are consuming the war in Afghanistan curated through media – drone operators treat asymmetrical warfare as a video game, Lorre and Aslan turn war into entertainment. Forgotten seems Baudrillard’s warning that technologies of image consumption put distance between war and the audience, making it seem like atrocities did not happen and are not happening. The war is being sold to the public as something moral and necessary, through the figures of the white saviour soldier and the deserving Afghan/Muslim.” [Al Jazeera / Sahar Ghumkhor and Anila Daulatzai]
COMMENTARY: “Making a sitcom about the consequences of war is definitely an uncommon choice, and after seeing “United States of Al,” it’s clear why.” [Michigan Daily / Josh Thomas]
Those who visit New York’s High Line art exhibition next month may be surprised to see a 25 feet above-ground fiberglass sculpture shaped like a predator drone. The sculpture, created by Sam Durant, a controversial anti-war multimedia artist based in Berlin, is titled ‘Untitled (drone)’ and has a wingspan of 48 feet, close to the size of an actual predator drone. [Indy100 / Breanna Robinson]


German defense minister vows to keep fighting for armed drones [Defense News / Sebastian Sprenger]


Chinese fishermen find drone ship ‘used for spying by a foreign country’ [South China Morning Post / Rachel Zhang and Laura Zhou]


Read the full Roundup here, here, here and here.



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