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.
Biden issued interim guidance on the United States’ “use of military force and related national security operations” on his first day in office, and reiterated it on Friday, according to Emily Horne, the chief spokesperson for the National Security Council. The guidance is classified, but its purpose is to give Biden “full visibility on proposed significant actions in these areas,” Horne said. Such actions typically involve drone and other strikes against suspected terror groups and infrastructure, as well as special-operation raids. The administration notified Congress of the change on Monday.
While Biden reviews the counterterrorism authorities he has inherited, a left-right anti-war coalition is likely to greet the review as welcome news and a political opportunity. That coalition is pushing to end the Forever War—and getting programmatic about what ending endless wars looks like.
“Ending large footprint operations and shifting to ‘small footprint’ counterterrorism missions that continue to rely on war-based authorities is not sufficient,” one of the letters reads. That speaks to the ways the anti-war movement’s ambitions have expanded. Repealing both AUMFs “will not be the end of fixing the problem,” said Heather Brandon-Smith of the Friends Committee on National Legislation. “We still need to address the exporting of militarism, and there’s still a military-first approach to counterterrorism that has become normalized over the last two decades.” [The Daily Beast / Spencer Ackerman]
RELATED: There have been zero reported US drone strikes since Joe Biden took office. [Business Insider / Charles Davis]
President Biden’s Afghanistan negotiator has begun a diplomatic trip that will include the first meeting of the new administration with the Taliban. [The Daily Beast / Spencer Ackerman] [CNN / Aaron Pellish and Paul LeBlanc] “The 209th Corps is assisted by sixteen hundred nato troops, who help with training, and by an American Special Forces team, which provides both training and protection in combat; if an Afghan unit comes under attack, the Americans can call in a plane or a drone. (In one of the more unusual aspects of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, the United States is allowed to protect Afghan forces from attacks. In practice, that means almost daily American air strikes and drone attacks; when I visited Helmand Province, the U.S. had carried out two drone strikes that morning.)” [The New Yorker / Dexter Filkins]
In an interview with Taliban spokesman Muhammad Naim, he laid the blame at the feet of the government in Kabul. “For our part, we have fulfilled our duty. As for the other side, including America and its allies, and the Kabul administration, they have not stopped bombing, night attacks and drone attacks. These attacks are continuing and they have not committed to the reduction. [The New Arab]
COMMENTARY: Don’t stop with Saudis — Biden must cut off weapons to UAE, too [Responsible Statecraft / William Hartung]
Bilal Abdul Kareem, the American-born journalist who has been targeted by American drone strikes multiple times, was released after being imprisoned by the Syrian Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. [Al-Monitor]
These companies make our military’s drones [Utah Business / Emma Penrod]
With fewer US troops in Europe, MQ-9 Reaper drones are filling the gap [Military.com / Oriana Pawlyk]
“Drone attacks on Saudi Arabia from Iraq are a new threat” [The Jerusalem Post / Seth Frantsman]
Iran unveils its latest UAV drone that looks like a US Predator [Interesting Engineering / Fabienne Lang]
COMMENTARY: When published, the Integrated Review will no doubt contain fine phrases and soothing words insisting that the UK is committed to upholding international rules and promising peace, prosperity and security. The reality, as Ben Wallace was happy to tell Sky News, is that the British military will now be “more forward-deployed” and “prepared for persistent global engagement and constant campaigning.” [Drone Wars UK / Chris Cole]
Gulf countries are expected to invest in advanced defence technology, local military production and knowledge-transfer partnerships during the Middle East’s largest defence expo in Abu Dhabi this week. Missile defence systems, drones, counter-unmanned aerial vehicles, cyber security tools and artificial intelligence technology, will be in demand at the International Defence Exhibition, analysts said. [The National / Deena Kamel]
“How drones have added a new dynamic to conflicts” [Al Jazeera / Thomas O Falk]
Military drones are changing, as are the wars they’re fighting. Here’s what’s happening now [ABC Australia / Dr. Michael Richardson]
Israel’s suicide drone sales to China puts Tel Aviv in awkward bind with US [TRT World]
E-International Relations published a book on remote warfare from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives. I haven’t had a chance to read all of them yet, but I can recommend Baraa Shiban and Camilla Molyneux’s look at the human cost of remote warfare in Yemen, Dan Mahanty”s discussion of human rights and civilian harm in security cooperation and Jennifer Gibson’s take down of drones, kill lists, and algorithms.
A new CPI investigation asks: Are we ready for weapons to have a mind of their own?
“The scale of the exercises at West Point, in which roughly 100 students have participated so far, is small, but the dilemmas they present are emblematic of how the U.S. military is trying to come to grips with the likely loss of at least some control over the battlefield to smart machines. The future may well be shaped by computer algorithms dictating how weapons move and target enemies. And the cadets’ uncertainty about how much authority to give the robots and how to interact with them in conflict mirrors the broader military’s ambivalence about whether and where to draw a line on letting war machines kill on their own.
The person tasked with kick-starting AI in the military was Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, a former F-15 pilot who was the first director of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. Shanahan was still building out his rapidly expanding team when [Center for Public Integrity] interviewed him at his office in Arlington, Va., in early 2020, on the day he announced he would be retiring later that year. He said his team was just starting work on what would be its first AI project directly connected to killing people on the battlefield. The aim is to use AI to help shorten the time it takes to strike by simplifying the process of picking targets — signaling almost instantly, for example, whether places like hospitals or religious sites are in the line of fire. It’s expected to be used in combat in 2021.” [The Center for Public Integrity / Zachary Fryer-Biggs]
RELATED: Who should stop unethical AI? [The New Yorker / Matthew Hutson]
Autonomous surveillance at Marine base has warzone potential [C4ISRNET / Andrew Eversden]
The terrifying development of AI warfare [The Spectator UK / Andy Owen]
Online art project takes aim at militarization of robotics [NBC News / Alexandra Marqez]
The 18th Airborne Corps will host a live-fire experiment the first week of March, using artificial intelligence to share targeting data amongst Marine F-35s, Air Force A-10s, ground-based HIMARS rocket launchers, and commercial satellites. [Breaking Defense / Sydney Freedberg]
AI militarization will be ‘force multiplier’ for UAE, Saudi Arabia [C4ISRNET / Agnes Helou]
COMMENTARY: Why NATO needs lethal autonomous weapons standards [CEPA / Brian Michelson]